I was fired after disabling my coworker’s caps-lock key, leaving on time to pick up my dog, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I was fired after disabling my coworker’s caps-lock key

I just finished my sophomore year of college. For the summer, I got a three-month internship at a company that does work in the field I am getting my degree in and want to work in after I graduate. This was my second job, after the internship somewhere else I had last summer. I was hoping to get some good experience like last summer.

I was paired with the same person for two-thirds of the work I was doing. She has lots of skills, but I noticed when she types she uses the caps-lock key each time she needed to make a capital letter instead of using the shift key. She is only five years older than me, and she is very good with technology and computers. I didn’t understand why she would type this way, because even though she does type fast and efficiently, using the caps-lock key would slow her down. I mentioned it to her and even showed her, and she said she had no idea but she would keep on using the caps-lock key.

I thought she just needed to see how efficient it was so when I was using her computer I disabled the caps-lock key. She was very upset when she found out that it didn’t work and I explained what I did and why she should give the shift key a chance. She complained to the manager, and even though I was just trying to make things more efficient, the manager sided with her and I was let go a month into my internship. HR sided with her too when I went to them. I’m confused because I was only trying to help and make things more efficient. Did I really do something wrong or did the company overreact?

You overstepped. You interfered with her workflow, which you didn’t have any right to do. This isn’t a perfect analogy, but it’s similar to if you decided that her filing system was inefficient and completely reorganized her files without her permission; it’s not yours to do and it would undoubtedly mess up her workflow.

You can’t mess with people’s computer, files, etc., even if you’re just trying to help. It’s presumptuous and it’s overstepping.

Firing you was an extreme response, but it’s possible they’d had other concerns and this was a final straw kind of thing.

2. Leaving on time to pick up my dog

I am about to interview for a new role and I was hoping to get your advice on how/when to bring up a potential problem. I have a dog with quite bad separation anxiety who goes to doggy daycare every day as a result. To collect him from daycare, I need to leave work at 5.30 most days. In my current role, this hasn’t proven an issue as I have been very diligent in managing workloads and our business isn’t one where long hours are normally necessary. In cases where there are late meetings or evening commitments, it is possible to make alternative arrangements, but most days I will have to leave on time. We are working with a dog trainer at the moment to build up to being able to leave the dog for a couple of hours, but the training is contingent on him not being left at the moment.

Is this something I should bring up only once I have an offer?

Definitely wait until you have an offer, which is the general rule with logistics stuff that you’re hoping will be fairly minor.

And once you have the offer, I don’t know that I’d get into the reason for the request. Fairly or not, you risk people thinking you’re prioritizing wrong if you explain it’s about doggy daycare. You might be better off just saying, “Can you tell me what typical hours are like? The way my after-work schedule is set up right now, I’d need to leave at 5:30 most days. Is that feasible with this role, or do people in this position end up needing to stay later than that regularly?”

3. Is porn ever okay on a work computer?

Is porn ever okay on a work computer? Background: I’ll be traveling for an extended period of time and my only mobile internet devices are my company computer and company phone. It will be off the clock and not on the company internet, but I’m not sure if it would be considered using company resources still or not.

Thoughts? Is this something that would get flagged even if not on company network?

Don’t do it. If you’re using any company device (phone, computer, tablet), even if you’re not on your company’s network, there’s too much of a risk that what you’re doing could be tracked and spotted by them. And if they do spot it, you really don’t want to have the “but the porn was off the clock” conversation. They’re entitled not to want to have business resources mixed with porn.

Instead, consider getting a small tablet to take with you so that you have some privacy.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. I can’t tell if I was really asked back for another interview or not

I had an interview yesterday with a terrific organization that I would love to work for. This morning, I woke up to an email from the HR person asking me to suggest some times to come back for a final round. The only problem is that he addressed it to the wrong name. In the salutation section of the email, he wrote, “Hi, Jane,” and there was no other mention of names throughout the email. My thinking is that this could either have been a copy-paste error if he was emailing multiple candidates (and still meant to send it to me), or he could have intended to send this to another candidate altogether.

When I write back to confirm my availability, should I address the name issue or just ignore it and act like it was addressed to me?

The error was probably the name, not the sending it to you, but for peace of mind you could say something like this when writing back: “I’m hoping you meant Alison, not Jane! Assuming so, I’d love to come back in to talk further.”

5. Should I go back to my old job?

I hate my new job. I’ve been here for less than two months, but let me back up.

My last job was great. I worked with great people for a great cause and my role was really interesting and engaging. I left because I was offered a job (I wasn’t looking) and it’s in a larger organization with more room to grow and more money which I sorely need. I felt I was making a mistake the instant I resigned — but how do you go back on that? I thought I should see how it played out.

During my notice period, I worked hard. Overtime, weekends, etc. — and not because anyone asked me to but because I wanted to leave everything in good shape for the interim person and because, to be honest, I felt so bad for leaving. I was told over and over that if I changed my mind before they replaced me, they’d take me back.

Fast forward to now. I don’t like it here. My boss and I just haven’t gelled and I feel like I don’t fit in here at all. It’s not a bad place to work it’s just not … me. The job itself isn’t what I thought it would be and I find my role very isolating. To top it off, I know my boss isn’t happy with me (yes, I know for a fact) and I’m worried he’s going to let me go.

I’m so confused about what to do. Part of me wants to ask for my old job back but is that even a real thing? Do people actually mean it when they say that they’d take you back? I know I can leave (or get let go, whichever comes first!) and leave this blip off my resume, but as the sole provider for my family I’m scared to be unemployed. Any advice?

Yes, people go back. It’s a thing! I wouldn’t always recommend it, because if you’d been looking to leave in the first place, there was probably a reason — and those things are probably going to make you dissatisfied all over again after a few months back. In those cases, I’d say look at a third option — not going back, not staying where you are, but finding something else entirely. But in your case, you weren’t looking. You were lured away by something that ended up not being what you’d hoped.

If you want to go back, email your old boss, ask if they’ve filled your role, and ask if she was serious about you coming back. (She probably was, but asking is an easy way to lead into it.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 757 comments… read them below }

  1. Aphrodite*

    Ooh, interesting questions.

    OP #1, bad mistake. People do things a certain way for a reason that works for them. You pointed it out once, she told you why she preferred it. You should have let it go at that point.

    OP #3, my eyebrows shot up to the ceiling upon reading your question. I have a laptop and iPad Pro that was given to me by work. Two days ago, I asked one of the IT people if I could install Sim City 4 on it and he said that officially it wasn’t cool but most people did install personal stuff and it was overlooked. However, he specifically warned me off porn. (I am an older woman and assured him that was not a personal interest.)

    OP #5, I have gone back twice to my old job in higher education. I’m there to stay now–fabulous benefits and a good new boss–so I say go for it.

    1. Junior Dev*

      RE: 1, I hate it when a co-worker is showing me how to do something and they critique me for right-clicking instead of using a keyboard shortcut, or something. One that seems to baffle all of them is when I type out code by hand instead of copy/pasting example code from an online example or elsewhere in the project. It helps me understand the code better.

      Even if the co-worker had “bad” reasons for using the caps lock key (and they might have reasons you don’t know about, like a hand injury that makes pressing multiple keys at once difficult), you don’t screw with people’s workflow unless you have a very good reason (like necessary software updates), and even then you do it with as much buy in from the user as possible. I hope OP 2 learns from this that you can’t just go imposing your idea of the “right” way to do things on other people without considering their point of view.

      1. Artemesia*

        For 1. The deal breaker here was that you had already EXPLAINED the cap lock thing and the person had told you she didn’t want to do that. It was incredibly offensive to then go in and change her computer to force her to see it your way. If this was in fact the straw that broke the camel, you need to really rethink how you work with other people; this was presumptuous and insubordinate two things that will help you get fired if you do something similar in your future job. Internships are a great time to learn these truths of the universe; it is relatively low stakes. Take it to heart and be more mindful of how you interact in a workplace. Coming on too strong as a newbie is always a mistake; spend your first 3 mos on a new job observing how the place functions.

        1. thevekuc*

          I agree with the comments, but wanted the OP to look on the bright side that you learned this lesson (getting buy in from co-workers versus shoving a change down their throats) the early in you career.

          We just hired a senior know it all who has systematically alienated or at least rubbed every one of his co-workers the wrong way. He has many good ideas that we happily adopted, but where we’ve expressed reservations, he digs in his heels and gets a bit belligerent. From what I’ve overheard, he’s working with IT to update our computers to implement things he thinks we will have. This is very annoying for a couple of reasons (I like to understand changes made to my computer and I may not want all the changes particularly personal preference type changes).

          Anyway, getting fired sucks, but if it helps you to avoid eventually turning into someone like the guy we’ve hired, it’s a blessing to you and to your future co-workers.

        2. Annonymouse*

          The fact it went through:
          co worker
          co workers boss
          and HR

          Tells me that OP
          1) Doesn’t understand senority – of course the bosses and HR will side with the actual employee over the intern on a subject like this.

          2) Doesn’t understand how innovation and implementation work.

          If an employed worker does something a certain way at your internship you don’t get to make them change. You only get to force changes if you’re hired to make that change as a consultant or C suite.

          3) Is willing to waste company time by pushing an intial non-issue into a firing offence.

          (not sure if HR came before or after the firing)

          4) Thinks being right or focusing on a small issue is more important than learning and getting experience in their field – the whole point of an internship.

          This is why you got fired OP.

          You turned a small quirk into a huge deal for 4 people, misunderstood the point of your internship and proved difficult to work with.

          Please learn from this so you don’t make the same mistakes again.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        “and even then you do it with as much buy in from the user as possible”

        Thinking about it OP, you might want to look into – and learn a bit about – something called ‘change management’, which is basically about introducing new processes or programs or ways of doing things. It’s never as simple as just forcing the change. If you learn about this, you could turn this experience into a scenario you can talk about in interviews.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Sorry this is nearly a year late, but I just saw this.

          Ramona Flowers is right: “If you learn about this, you could turn this experience into a scenario you can talk about in interviews.”

          This is very important! There are many aspects to whatever industry you’ve chosen, and dollars to donuts, if you get into management, you’re going to have to implement change, as new technology, processes, cultural shifts, etc. demand.

          Being someone who KNOWS how to implement change with underlings and co-workers will look fantastic in interviews. Our world changes *all the time!*. “How do you deal with change?” is a big interview question (or should be).

          When they ask you “How do you deal with change?” you can tell them all the positive things you learned, specifically because of this episode. “I screwed up royally during my second internship, trying to force a change on my co-worker. Because of that, I decided to study that topic, specifically, including how to deal with change myself, and how to implement change in a business environment. I read (list some well known books/articles/other resources here. My favorite is “Who Moved My Cheese”) and interviewed some consultants whose entire job is identifying needed changes and implementing them. Furthermore, I took classes/training on the psychology of change, and change management. I took that stumbling block and turned it into a stepping stone!”

          Your heart was in the right place, wanting to improve your co-worker’s life, but the way you went about it was 1) disruptive of her workflow (thus costing the company money), and 2) downright hurtful. But you can learn from this mistake, and become an expert in Change, adding value to any organization you join, as you help them keep up with our fast-changing society.

          Good luck, and may you become the best best Agent Of Change in your industry!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      For OP#1, although firing sounds harsh (I suspect it was a final straw), on the plus side, it’s better to have a learning opportunity like this earlier in your career than later.

      But yes, this was an overreach. OP#1, you told your coworker about your method, she politely turned you down. Instead of letting it go and focusing on your own work or performance, you became really focused on “fixing” this one little thing that you thought she shouldn’t do. You didn’t consider if she’s cultivated a style of typing that means she’s faster when she uses Caps-lock (instead of shift), or if she’s trained in a different typing method, or if she may have a physical impediment that informs her typing approach, or if she just prefers using Caps-lock. You essentially deprioritized all your other work, etc., to “prove” to your coworker that your “solution” was better, when in fact it significantly derailed her morning and disrupted her workflow. It’s also not the right way to communicate with other people, and it was a bit sneaky to do (most people do not expect their coworkers to get into their account/computer and then mess around with their settings).

      Can you see why your approach went over so badly? Because based on your letter, I’m a little worried that you’re once again focused on a different problem than the problem that your employer and coworker identified. If you can try to understand why this went sideways, I think it will help you cultivate your ability to see problems from others’ perspectives, which is valuable to hone as you continue in your career.

      1. Lance*

        That last point is key. If you have to ask if you’re doing something wrong, you’d best be reading and seeing exactly why what you did was wrong, and why that shouldn’t even be a question.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        The second and third paragraphs are why I suspect that this may well have been a last straw thing, even if OP didn’t notice any of the pre-firing faux pas. It wasn’t a problem (‘types fast and efficiently’), it wasn’t OP’s problem to fix, and you just do not mess with anyone’s settings, ever, unless you are the IT person and they asked you to do it.

        1. KTZee*

          It might have been a first straw thing, honestly. The most common way to disable the Caps Lock key on a typical Windows computer is to edit the Windows registry, which is the sort of activity that comes with big blinking red warning signs on tech websites. It has the serious potential to really mess up your computer if you do something wrong (though it’s relatively safe if you are following reputable directions carefully).

          I would not be at all surprised to learn this would be a first-strike firing offense due to its potential to compromise IT security, especially considering it was done on someone else’s computer, however banal the actual outcome may have been.

          1. whingedrinking*

            Yeah, I think going into someone else’s workspace cavalierly to prove a point shows terrible judgement. A coworker of mine once changed another coworker’s desktop wallpaper for a prank and got a sternly worded email from the administration – in a situation that had no risk of compromising security or seriously affecting her work ability, just because it’s rude and unprofessional to go mess around with someone else’s work stuff for your own reasons.

      3. JennyFair*

        Assuming an adult who knows how to type somehow doesn’t understand what the Shift key does was itself an error in judgment, and demonstrated an assumption on the part of the letter writer of their own superiority.

      4. many bells down*

        Even if it’s not objectively faster to do it her way, by forcing her to type in a way that’s not automatic to her, that’s not ingrained in her muscle memory, #1 has now made her comparatively slower. She’s going to be automatically trying to do it the way she’s always done it, and constantly having to stop and back up and re-do things.

    3. Antilles*

      Two days ago, I asked one of the IT people if I could install Sim City 4 on it and he said that officially it wasn’t cool but most people did install personal stuff and it was overlooked.
      As far as I can tell, this is a very common to handle installing games, music players, and other software programs by established companies: The policy formally says no, but we’ll look the other way as long as it doesn’t create a problem (illegal copies, security risks, taking up so much space the computer runs slowly, etc).

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        They might look the other way until there are other problems with your work, and then they stop looking away. Not being a problem today doesn’t mean that it won’t be a problem tomorrow. A colleague was in a similar situation, and received an informal OK to do what he was doing. But when he got a new boss who was looking to clean out his department, the OK disappeared and my colleague was terminated because he was violating company policy with the think that was previously OK’d.

        1. Aphrodite*

          True. But here it is okay. I have a new boss but both she and the last one (and in fact all the ones at the college before that) were fine with people spending time browsing online during downtimes because the busy times were VERY busy. Yes, I am fortunate. I do not play the game at work at all regardless of whether there is time or not.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Yep. I have a friend who has a coworker who had gotten a laptop that was previously used by another employee. It was loaded with porn and when they told their manager, the employee who it previously belonged to was escorted out that day.

          1. Elise*

            I’m always surprised when things like laptops, ipads, etc are passed from one staff member to another without a look at condition and contents first. I can’t tell you how many of our staff come to me with iPad issues and they would have been prevented by a clean wipe after the previous employee turned it in and left.

            So leaving a laptop in that condition is even worse!

        3. Anna*

          This is the kind of thing that would make no difference; the manager would have found something. Even if your friend had not installed anything and was using their equipment by the letter of the policy, they would have been let go.

    4. Misc*

      Heh, I was quite amused reading 3, because ALL my devices belong to work (I work from home, my old computer is very dead now, I never buy myself smartphones, but I keep getting given stuff for testing/work use) and I never worry at all about any personal use aspects. Whether that’s NSFW content, games, medical related data, general entertainment, art, travel, snaps of cats doing silly things in front of me… there can be a LOT of overlap between personal and business use on devices these days, and it would be super incredibly inconvenient for me to have to keep them separate (I would literally have to go buy new devices for everything).

      Of course, I was told point blank that I could go ahead and install whatever I liked (very definitely including games) and it’s sort of understood that it’s silly to buy a spare computer when work provides one and most smartphones are designed to work with a personal account (I need app store access and an account/profile to USE them for work), so it’s quite difficult to keep my personal stuff separate from work stuff on them.

      Of course this is VERY context dependent. I work for a very small company that specifically allows this. I’d treat my devices very differently if I worked elsewhere.

      1. Misc*

        And when I hand stuff back in for tech purposes (because occasionally we need to swap devices around), I can easily wipe my personal data. So there’s not much risk to people seeing things I don’t want them to see.

        …I also kind of flummoxed my manager by not using a smartphone as an actual phone (it wasn’t given to me for that purpose, and I never need it for work calls, I just needed it for other things, but apparently they just assumed I’d use it as a personal phone). So apparently I’m under-personal-using my devices :D

      2. Floundering Mander*

        I wouldn’t want my employer to have access to my NSFW or personal stuff, though. It’s pretty easy to buy a second-hand device to use for such things and taking an extra mobile phone on a trip doesn’t seem like a huge burden to me. I have a second phone that I got for 30 pounds on ebay that I take with me on vacation. I set it up with a separate gmail account although I use things like Dropbox to sync important files. At home I sometimes use it to stream music in the kitchen or just for playing around on the internet.

        YMMV, of course, but I wouldn’t want my employer to have access to my social media or ebook accounts.

    5. Volunteer Enforcer*

      Seconding your assessment on OP #1. Everyone has different preferences for doing things.

    6. Susana*

      I have to say… I don’t think firing was an over-reaction. First, the LW is an INTERN (and guess what? I kept my finger held on the shift button instead of hitting all caps when I wrote that!). It’s totally not his/her place to instruct a staffer on how best to use the keyboard. Vandalizing the equipment to prove he or she is right, well… that’s a fireable offense. But maybe good lesson for an intern to learn.

  2. Dog advice*

    #2, if your boss doesn’t let you leave on time, my suggestion would be not putting your dog in doggy daycare. You likely have reasons for doing this, but often separation anxiety is increased by unfamiliar places. Try leaving your dog at home outside of a crate. Start them in a smaller area, again not a crate, and then a bigger area.

    1. Sami*

      We don’t really know what’s best for the OP’s dog. Likely daycare is a better option than being alone. Walks, outside time, socialization, etc. Best to just take her at her word.

      1. Dog advice*

        Like I said, she likely has her reasons, but if doggy daycare isn’t helping, she could try leaving her dog at home. Just a suggestion. :)

        1. Lady Luck*

          This isn’t helpful advice. She’s working with a trainer, who certainly knows the situation better than we do and says the dog shouldn’t currently be left alone while they work on the issues. It’s also not what the LW asked for advice on – she just wanted to know how and when to bring it up with her potential new employer, no dog advice needed.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Except some dogs with separation anxiety are happier with their doggy friends than alone in the house. That’s why it’s *separation* anxiety. Doggy daycare isn’t a strange place–the dog is seeing the same staff members and probably a lot of the same dogs every day.

        1. Koko*

          So much this. I worked at a doggy daycare in college, part of a kennel about 45 minutes outside of a mid-sized city. Daycare cost was $25/dog/day, with Friday free if they came Monday-Thursday. Most of the daycare dogs on any given day were dogs staying on the kennel half of the facility whose owners paid a little extra per night so they could go to daycare while boarding there, but we also had “regulars” – the dogs who were there 5 days a week, every week. At $100/week their families were spending roughly $400/month just to keep them occupied during the day. The regulars also walked around liked they owned the place–the daycare was not a strange environment to them, it was where they spent 40-50 hours a week and the same four staff members worked daycare all the time, so they knew all of us well.

          1. TootsNYC*

            yeah, I still remember, when my -child- was in daycare at 6 months and staying one day a week w/ my mother-in-law, my MIL asked me, “does she know she’s being taken care of by strangers?”

            I said, “Noni, they’re not strangers–she’s known them half her life. She sees them more than she sees you, and she knows them better!”

            1. CrazyCattleDogMom*

              Your response is priceless (putting that in my memory bank for future use with in-laws/stepparents)

            2. whingedrinking*

              I work with kids as a tutor and the whole, “Anyone who isn’t a blood relative is not to be trusted” vibe drives me crazy. Sometimes kids *need* someone outside their family, for a whole swathe of reasons. My job is to help children the best way I can, and yes, I get paid for it. That doesn’t make me some kind of horrible predator who’s out to steal them away from you.

        2. Tuckerman*

          Truth! Managing anxiety in dogs can be extremely expensive and time consuming. Some dogs are eat-through-the-drywall anxious.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Or eat the bottom of the crate and bend the door to get out anxious, or destroy the door to the room they’re in anxious, or eat the wood frame of the sliding glass door when outside in a small patio area…(ask me how I know)

      2. A Teacher*

        That is not a good plan–speaking as someone that does animal rescue, 130 fosters and counting, and has a dog with major anxiety (on Prozac). Daycare may be the dog’s best option. Often leaving a dog home alone uncrated especially with anxiety can actually make the situation worse. Dog daycare maybe the best option for her she’s probably tried numerous other solutions.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, I have friends who adopted a dog with major separation anxiety; part of the reason they did doggie daycare for awhile (along with other things) is because he barked his fool head off for hours, and they were in a condo with not the most soundproof walls. Thankfully they now live in a SFH and the dog is much less anxious :)

    2. Sloan*

      This is terrible advice. My dog has separation anxiety but does much better when he’s not alone. She, not you, knows her dog.

      1. Doggy Anxiety*

        Thank you everyone. As everyone has kindly said, trust me, my dog loves doggy daycare and adores the guys who run it, and that’s why is important for me to keep this arrangement going forward! Thanks to all and Alison for the advice.

        1. Glacier*

          Hello, OP #2!

          As someone whose dog has severe separation anxiety (border collie-husky mix) my only suggestion would be to get a toy that dispenses their dinner. It sounds like you’re using other resources well (trainer, doggy daycare), but we really found that multiple toys that dispensed food helped. Dogs need jobs and things to occupy their minds, and nosing a ball around or pushing levers until something pops out can be a great distraction. Here is a link to my favorite since you can put food inside as well as stuff bits of jerky-for-dogs into the cracks on the outside: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009YK3OU/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

          1. Basia, also a Fed*

            Hello! I also have a border collie/husky mix! She doesn’t have separation anxiety, fortunately, but she’s smarter than we are and an arrogant terror!

            1. Snark*

              I have a border collie/something with a curly tail and sticky uppy ears mix, and oh my god, that dog is more driven than I am. If she were a human, she’d already be the CEO of a major corporation or something.

            2. T3k*

              Same here! My last dog, we had one of these types of toys that she was supposed to roll around to get the food out. Instead, she quickly learned she could just pick it up, jump on the couch, then drop it on the ground and the food would come out.

              1. Dankar*

                Mine used to go to the top of the stairs and push it down. Now that we live somewhere without a loft, she noses it end over end across the floor. Sorry, downstairs neighbors…

                OP, I would absolutely keep the reasoning to yourself. I’m lucky in that my boss not only knows that my pup needs to be picked up from daycare, but is very stern about getting me out on time. Even still, when I first needed to leave right at 5:00, I only made it clear that I had a commitment on certain days and that I could stay late other nights if need be with some notice.

          2. Monique*

            OMG. I tried this with our first dog (ie, we have two now). He quickly figured out that instead of nosing something around, he could simply throw it against the wall and shower the floor with kibble.

            This while my husband was still asleep.

            Some dogs are occupied productively with food-dispensing toys. Some are way too smart or just hit upon a particularly annoying solution.

            This is the same dog who used to get up and sleep on the guest bed. So we put a “scat mat” (electrified pad) on the bed. This worked for two days. On the third day, he had figured out how to push the blanket up against the mat and move the whole thing out of the way so that he could sleep on the fitted sheet.

            Yes, he is a border collie mix; why do you ask?

        2. Sara*

          #2, I just want to commend you on taking such good care of your dog. I also have a dog with terrible separation anxiety, and he goes to doggie daycare every day. I know what a psychological and financial strain it can be, and I think it’s wonderful that you’re committed to taking such good care of him/her.

      2. blackcat*


        It’s particularly unnecessary “I need to leave by 5/5:30” is so common because people have kids to pick up from human daycare/go to a fitness class/etc. It’s not like OP is asking to leave at 3 or 4 every day. Seems like the easiest solution is to figure out a work schedule that works for the current plan.

        1. Infinity anon*

          Especially if she makes it clear that she can stay later occasionally if she has prior notice. Never being able to work late would likely be more of a problem than needing notice.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            It also sounds like the OP would be able to do some occasional work from home in the evenings – a dog, even an anxious dog, is not like a baby that needs undivided attention until bedtime. She could potentially pick up the dog, go home, and wrap up the Teapot Lid report while the dog was curled up next to her on the couch. She just has to be home.

        2. Sherry*

          Pets or no pets, I think it’s great to find out this info at the offer stage! Wouldn’t you like to know if the start time is 7:00 a.m. or 9:30 a.m., or if working overtime is a frequent expectation?

          1. Jaydee*

            I think she can ask in a fairly general way about the usual workday schedule, frequency of things like overtime and travel, etc. in the interview. That way she might find out the schedule is just totally incompatible with what she needs and can politely withdraw from consideration before she gets too far along in the process. But if the schedule is something like “generally 8-4:30, but occasionally projects will require a late night or two or there may be a weekend or evening event” that’s probably compatible enough with her needs to continue on if she wants and to deal with the specifics if she gets an offer.

    3. Another person*

      I would go with the advice of the dog trainer.

      If it is important to the OP (or anyone else for that matter) to have a job where they know they can leave the office by a certain time (with the exception of planned events where arrangements can be made in advance), that should be established at the offer stage to avoid frustration all around.

      The reason does not matter as much as the fact that a job with unpredictable hours is not a good fit for the OP right now.

    4. Autumn Leaves*

      Good for you OP #2! I agree that it’s probably best not to mention the reason as some people don’t understand that pups are our babies!

      We found out recently that our dog #2 has separation anxiety when he is completely alone. He is totally fine when dog #1 is around, but we had to take dog #1 somewhere without #2 recently and he cried nearly the WHOLE time we were gone (~3 hours; we have a nanny (puppy) cam we turn on when we leave them alone). He is crate trained, and was crated, so he was not destructive, but it was so, so sad. I would absolutely put him in daycare if we had to leave him alone again. Luckily we usually take both or neither pups.

    5. School Psych*

      Wow. This advice is just bad.. I adopted a dog a few years ago with some anxiety issues and every trainer we talked to suggested crate training to work her up to longer periods of being left home alone and keep her safe while we were out. Dogs with anxiety can be destructive and some will hurt themselves trying to get out of the house. Some dogs with severe anxiety will hurt themselves even when crated and can’t be safely left alone out in the house for any period of time. I think doggy daycare is a great solution while she works with the trainer on the anxiety issues. My dog goes twice a week and it has really helped with her social skills and anxiety. She gets lots of attention from the staff there and it’s not an unfamiliar place, since she’s going regularly.

  3. nnn*

    Today I learned you can disable the capslock key! (Not that I have any need or desire to, but I think it’s kind of neat that you can.)

    1. Willis*

      Wish I knew this when I worked for my old boss, who’d hit it accidentally AND THEN SEND ENTIRE EMAILS TO CLIENTS WRITTEN LIKE THIS.

        1. Drew*

          I have a family member who does this on Facebook. We’ve learned to ignore it, but it took some time.

          1. FCJ*

            I see a certain person of Facebook (not a friend, but a friend of a friend so I see a lot of their comments), Who Types Every Sentence Like This. I don’t understand if it’s a keyboard setting or what, but it’s weird.

            1. Rana*

              I bet it’s phone auto-correct. It’s annoying, and I don’t understand why it’s even a default on some devices.

      1. seejay*

        I totally thought that was what the letter was going to be about… disabling it to prevent a coworker from sending all-caps emails. But this actually is worse. It’s not like the coworker is doing a total faux-pas by sending annoying ALL CAPS EMAILS that the LW is trying to prevent, they just feel that there’s a more efficient way to type.

        OP, your coworker has her way of typing that way for whatever reason, you stepped across bounds by actively interfering with it. That’s a huge no-no.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I definitely have weird workflow quirks that I haven’t changed because 1. they’re not bothering anything, and 2. if I tried to change them it would just slow me down for ages while I relearned how to do it.

          For instance I do not type with the home row. In fact my typing form is a complete horror. But I type 90+ wpm with this horrible form and I’m not willing to drop myself back to like 30wpm for a few months while I relearn how to type.

          1. StarHopper*

            My mother earned her phD later in life, when we kids were all in high school. She wrote her entire dissertation by hunting-and-pecking with her index fingers. Drove me crazy to see, so I just didn’t watch! People are married to their methods, but so long as the work’s getting done, who are we to judge?

            1. Not So NewReader*

              People can build up some wildly fast speed with hunt and peck. I remember a typing teacher in the 70s said a local paper had reporters who only used hunt and peck they were typing well over 60 wpm.
              She said, “Everyone leaves them alone. Their speed is just fine.”

              1. Collarbone High*

                I’ve spent my entire career in newsrooms and can confirm this. Most of the reporters I’ve worked with don’t know how to touch type, but they can type incredibly fast (and loud) with whatever hunt and peck system they’ve worked out.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  Yep. Because at a certain point there isn’t really any “hunting”–you know where the keys are, you’re just not hitting them with the expected fingers.

              2. Not About Bob*

                I got a C in typing class in high school because I didn’t use proper form, yet I consistently had the fastest WPM in the class when we were timed.

                That happened in the 80s, and I’m still bitter.

                1. caligirl*

                  Ah, typing class in the 80s… I flunked my 11th grade typing class and still have PTSD about those tests!

                2. Bunny*

                  Ha! I flunked typing. Currently journalist with fasting filing time in newsroom.

                  I write with…modifications. It works. It’s fine.

                  Please note I spend 2/3 of my time sitting on ground typing at oh, say, 8 alarm fires.

              3. Anion*

                I’m a professional novelist, multi-NY-published, and I’m basically a superfast (no-longer-hunt-and-) peck-er. 80+ wpm, if I’m really in the zone; I don’t have to look at the keyboard at all if I don’t want to. I’d have a fit if someone disabled one of the keys on my computer just because they thought I should be typing differently.

              4. Susana*

                I’m a reporter, and don’t know any reporter (myself included) who touch-types. But we can all write 800-word stories in an hour….

            2. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Ha. My former boss typed with the index finger of one hand and the middle finger of the other, but he was pretty fast at it. I don’t think he ever learned to really type, but this works for him.

              1. Kathleen Adams*

                I used to have a coworker who typed with the index finger of his right hand and the index and middle fingers of his left hand. He was quite fast – at least as fast as me, a quite sloppy touch typist. Hey, if it ain’t broke…

                1. Long time lurker*

                  This is me! Except it’s two fingers on my right and one on my left. I’ve typed this way for like… 25 years? I can touch-type like this. I’m a professor. I write a lot. I’ve published a book. If an intern did this to me I’d fire him too.

              2. Alienor*

                My daughter had formal keyboarding classes in elementary school, but uses some odd system she developed on her own. She can type fast and accurately, though, so I don’t think it makes a difference!

            3. Blue Anne*

              My dad was like this! He was an academic and an expert witness. Wrote tons of stuff, papers, books, opinions. All hunt and peck.

            4. Allison*

              I peck the keyboard too! I don’t “hunt” though, I know where the keys are by now, but I definitely don’t type properly. But it works for me, and I type quickly, and if a colleague – especially a new, younger, less experienced colleague – tried to change the way I typed, I’d be livid. Heck I’d be annoyed if my boss tried to make me type differently, unless he had a damn good reason for it.

              1. OhNo*

                Same here. I can even type without looking most of the time, assuming it’s not one of those ergonomic split keyboards. I just know where most of the keys are by now since I’ve gotten so much practice.

                And as others have said, I would also be pretty cranky if anyone tried to make me type differently. Changing my style now would result in a massive slow down for however long it took me to learn the new system, and quite frankly I don’t have that kind of time.

            5. Elle*

              My mom JUST switched over to writing directly to the computer, vs. handwriting all of her work first! We kept telling her how much quicker it is, but she wasn’t interested. She’s thrilled with it now and wonders why she waited so long.

            6. JessaB*

              My grandfather was the fastest freaking typist I ever met, and he was a two index finger guy.

          2. aebhel*

            Same. I’m not in the 90+ wpm range, but I’m comfortably into the 70’s with my terrible form; I never took a typing class and learned it all on my own, so I definitely don’t do it the right way. But going back and relearning basic typing would slow me wayy down.

            If I had (or wanted) a job where extremely high-speed accurate typing was a prerequisite, I’d do it, but I don’t, so why bother?

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              I type with four fingers. My typing speed is 130 wpm (yes, you read that right). Has been for years. If it ain’t broke…

                1. Grey*

                  She could have meant one hand. I mean, typing with four fingers on each hand is pretty common so that could go without saying.

                  I’m impressed by the 130 wpm either way, so I was just looking for clarification.

                2. Grey*

                  Unless you were implying that maybe she meant like 2 fingers on each hand.

                  In any case, 130 wpm is crazy. That kind of speed would jam a conventional typewriter.

                3. (Different) Rebecca*

                  I am implying two fingers on each hand, and who uses a conventional typewriter these days?? We can safely assume computer/tablet.

                4. teclatrans*

                  My assumption was two fingers per hand.

                  And OP, learn this now: your ideas for improved efficiency will often be rejected, and usually for good reasons if you are relatively new to the company. When you receive a no, listen. And whatever you do, do not force people to adopt your ideas so they will see how great they are. That’s movie-fiction stuff right there — heartwarming on-screen, creepy and controlling URL. (Well, it’s creepy and controlling on-screen, but usually not framed as such.)

              1. Ramona Flowers*

                Two per hand. Occasionally a third finger comes into play but I don’t touch type properly/correctly. Don’t need to as I can touch type fine my way – and everyone who’s ever told me to change has been slower than I am. I never look at the keys and don’t notice when the letters wear off.

                I can also type the alphabet in under five seconds. I have won at least three bets doing this as nobody ever believes it’s possible…

                1. SarahKay*

                  Wow! Like you, I don’t notice when the letters wear off – at least, not until someone else needs to type something into my computer and they complain – but I am not even close to 130 wpm. That is really, really impressive.

          3. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I don’t use the qwerty keyboard for the numerals. I use the ten-key pad whenever I need to type a number, which is faster for me even though I have to move my hand away from the keyboard and back. If someone took my 10-key pad away, I’d burn the building down*.

            *Office Space

            1. acmx*

              I hate not having a 10-key pad. If I have to use the numbers in a row, I feel like I don’t know my numbers – I have to look so much to find the right number lol

            2. eplawyer*

              OMG, I had an office manager who told me if I used the 10 key pad that was wrong. Yes, not a different style, not inefficient, but wrong. She would turn off my NumLock key every time she used my keyboard. I just turned it back on.

              The problem with #1 is not that the co-worker had a way of typing and he should leave it alone. It’s that an intern thought he could tell an employee of the company what to do. You are not this person’s supervisor. It is not your job to make people more efficient in the office. The intern’s job is to learn, not impose their ways on others. This letter reminded me of the dress code interns from last summer. You don’t go in and change an office when you are an intern.

              1. Observer*

                Well, BOTH things are a problem. And the attempt to force their way on another person, by sneaky methods, is a bigger problem in many ways. Because, the OP will eventually stop being an intern, but messing with others is just NOT a good idea. Your old office manager may have had the technical standing to do what she did, but it was still a REALLY bad idea. It would be even worse with someone you don’t supervise, and if done by messing with someone’s computer and not telling them, even not as an intern.

                1. Hedgehog*

                  And something that (I’m assuming) is less easily undone than just pushing the numlock key.

            3. Junior Dev*

              I use ergonomic stuff as much as possible but a lot of ergonomic keyboards are set up for conventional text, not programming. It means I often have to hunt for the special character keys and they’re I’m weird locations. My current keyboard is pretty good with this but past ones have not been good.

            4. Wendy Darling*

              I on the other hand never use the 10-key pad and prefer a keyboard without one because it takes up less space and I’m not going to use it regardless!

              So if anyone takes away your 10-key pad just come take mine.

          4. many bells down*

            I’m of an age where I missed the window for formal typing lessons. My typing form is also ridiculous and involves, at most, 4-5 of my fingers. But I’m fast, I can type without looking at the keys, and it’s not hurting anyone. Is it annoying to watch me type? Maybe. I had a boss who was a hunt-and-pecker, and it was annoying to me to watch him, so probably.

            Which reminds me; it bothers my husband to watch me write, because I’m left-handed and it looks weird and backwards to him. My handwriting is far better than his by any measure, but it LOOKS like I’m doing it wrong. Now imagine someone decided I should write right-handed like other people do after 40-some years of doing it my way.

          5. Stephanie the Great*

            I type with my index and middle fingers only, I definitely use the caps lock key as opposed to the shift key (I think it allows me to capitalize letters on the other side of the keyboard faster, since I don’t have to try to hold down the Shift key while finding the key I want to capitalize — I don’t know, it just works for me!) and then use my right thumb to press the space key, and use my left thumb to press shift when I need a special character. I type at about 75 wpm, and I don’t have to look down at my keyboard at all. I have it memorized, it works for me. If someone disabled my caps lock key, they’d quickly learn to regret the decision.

        2. Jim*

          I think the reason the person was fired was for interfering with company-owned hardware. That’s an express lane to unemployment at any workplace.

        3. SophieChotek*

          Yes, I also thought that was there the letter was going – disabling it to prevent a co-worker from sending ALL CAPS emails…so I was surprised when it was just about forcing a co-worker to learn a more efficient work flow, by disabling a way that worked for them.

      2. Julia*

        I once had a supplier we were considering send me an entire email and offer letter in lower case. Like, even my name was lower case.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          A professor in my previous department writes everything with no capitalization. He doesn’t capitalize his own name, the beginnings of sentences, nothing! When we were getting a new dean, he wrote a several-page-long document, entitled “manifesto” about the direction the school and curriculum should continue going, and it was all in lower-case stream-of-consciousness.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Well, as long as it could be read and easily understood, right? NO? I am shocked, I tell you, shocked. ;)

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I was expecting a scenario like that from the title! I can’t imagine being so annoyed by someone else’s caps lock key that you actually disable it unless they have it on pretty much all the time.

      4. Hedgehog*

        I assumed from the headline that this was the reason. Someone had finally received one too many all caps emails.

      5. AC*

        When I saw the headline, I thought that this was going to be about a coworker who sends all caps emails…because I am lucky to have had such an experience a few years back

    2. CoveredInBees*

      You can reset entire keyboards if you so choose (e.g. QWERTY to Dworak set-up or utilizing accents without having to press 3 keys at once). This can be especially helpful if you have to jump between keyboard layouts at home and at the office. Same with mouse buttons. Many left-handers swap them because it is more comfortable.

      1. This Daydreamer*

        Resetting the keyboard as a prank is a Very Bad Thing to do, so I hope no one is tempted to go to the language settings of a computer belonging to someone else to do this.

        Not even that person who ruined your lunch by having an hour long, loud argument with someone on the phone while wandering all around the coffee shop, paying no attention to their laptop when they took a break to yell at the person at the counter because they wanted something to be on the menu and it wasn’t.

    3. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Huh, I didn’t know how to disable caps lock, but looking at my keyboard, I see that there is just an on/off switch for it. Having never needed to disable caps lock, I just never noticed it there.

    4. Fafaflunkie*

      Trust me, I needed to do that on my work computers out of necessity. I kept hitting that BLEEPing Caps Lock key by mistake to see entire sentences typed LIKE I WAS SCREAMING, that finding the registry back to move it to key I won’t hit over and over ad nauseum (Scroll Lock was my key of choice.)

      As for OP#1 however, bad move. I oftentimes cringe how coworkers go around getting their work done on a computer (them: click drag right-click to copy some text then click right-click to paste. Me: cursors to beginning, holds Shift to copy words, ^C, Alt-Tab to program I want to paste, TAB to destination, ^V.) I do however understand people get from Point A to Point B differently. I grew up with computers in the DOS days. My coworkers haven’t.

      1. Fafaflunkie*

        Edit: Should have completed the first paragraph. “…solved my problems with who the BLEEP put that BLEEPING Caps Lock key there.”

  4. KarenT*

    #1 Firing seems like a pretty strong reaction to me unless this was part of a pattern. OP you definitely overstepped, and I hope you can see that now. It’s not just messing with someone’s computer, but it also comes off a bit know-it-all-ish. She was senior to you and you should have been focusing on learning from her, not on correcting her habits even if they seem inefficient. It would be strange for even her boss to insist she type a certain way, let alone an intern. And disabling the key is a heavy handed and intrusive way to handle this. This still doesn’t seem fire-worthy to me, but I hope you learn from the experience.

    1. Artemesia*

      You are a newbie, you have a bright idea, I tell you ‘no’ I do it this way and so you ‘break my computer’ to show me your way is right. I don’t know if I would have fired her, but I think it is a reasonable approach to something this aggressively wrong footed. This wasn’t a ‘mistake’, it was insubordination and it involved messing with someone else’s work tool.

      1. RVA Cat*

        OP1 reads as male to me, just because this kind of aggressive “optimizing” behavior tends to come from dudes – especially towards women. It reminded me of the Captain Awkward story of the engineer father removing his adult daughter’s toast from the toaster in order to reinsert it the “right” way. Tampering with someone’s work computer takes that to a whole other level….

        1. Frozen Ginger*

          I’d say we should veer away from assumptions. I definitely know both men and women like this.

          1. Turquoise Cow*

            Yeah, I’ve definitely known some pushy women and did not get the male vibe at all.

        2. Beancounter Eric*

          Yeah, well both my mother and my wife take apart sandwiches I make and reassemble them because they don’t like how I assemble them. And often, it’s the sandwich on my plate.

          It’s not always men who engage in “optimizing” behaviors.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I had a woman friend get annoyed with me for putting my meat on my sandwich “messily.” Hers was perfectly flat on the bread. I’d kind of scrunched mine up…because I worked at a sandwich shop where we did that to (a) make it look like more, and (b) get heat into the inner layers while toasting. She thought I was just being a slob, but it was a habit that originally had a reason behind it.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              You and I both know that sandwiches taste better with the lunchmeat all scrunched up like that! Not really explainable, but there it is.

            2. Anion*

              I was a cocktail waitress for a while when I was twenty, and one of my fellow waitresses had a fit on me one day because, in setting up the tables, I put out the little standup menus on each and then set out the ashtrays, instead of doing it ashtrays-first.

              Why it mattered to her so much I still have no idea (she hated me anyway, though), but she was furious at my “incompetence” in setting up the tables.

          2. Artemesia*

            Yeah I do this a lot with our dishwasher since my husband will apparently never learn the right way to do it and I can get another dozen things in after he has it full. But I do keep my hands off his sandwiches, his laundry and certainly his computer.

            1. Jaydee*

              Same here! I think the dishwasher is a fairly frequent example of women “aggressively optimizing.” Because facing all the bowls backward DOES NOT GET THEM CLEAN!!! (oops…sorry for the sudden yelling…I should disable my caps lock).

                1. Stephanie the Great*

                  Because it’s faster to rearrange the dishes that have been pre-rinsed than it is to rinse and scrape and possibly soak and then put them all in the dishwasher, or try to teach and explain to the person doing the dishes why it’s more effective to do it one way. Maybe she’s grateful that the gross part is done, and now all she needs to do is quickly turn the bowls facing the proper way. My boyfriend always does the dishes for me, and he never loads it right, but I don’t say anything because he did the hard part. So what if I have to reorganize the bowls in a way that I prefer?

                  There’s no reason to be so paternalistic.

                2. Katelyn*

                  because things are put in as they are used to keep the kitchen tidy, but are rearranged for optimal cleanliness just before the load is run? That’s my reason anyways (and sometimes I’m optimizing my own loading because I don’t know at the start that we will be using the extra large salad bowl when my MIL comes by unexpectedly, but now it needs to be accounted for)

                3. Susana*

                  Hmmm..is it possible that’s the point? Oh, honey, I’m just a klutz with the vacuum. You do it so much better, anyway.

        3. Oryx*

          I had a female coworker “optimize” my entire work area to make it more convenient for her on the one day she had to cover for me. Moved furniture around and everything so please let’s refrain from making gendered assumptions.

        4. TootsNYC*

          yeah, I see plenty of aggressive “optimizing” behavior from women! I don’t think this is gender specific. And I think in my own experience, I’ve encountered way more women who do it.

        5. RVA Cat*

          Point taken. Either way, it’s somebody being disrespectful and having no boundaries. Your keyboard or your sandwich is None of Their Business!

        6. Serin*

          Ohh, not so much. I’m a (mostly) reformed optimizer. You should have seen me when my kid started driving. “If — never mind. You could — never mind. You do see — never mind.”

        7. Relly*

          I realize that stereotypes are unhelpful, but I think the important half of “male engineer” is not “male” but “engineer.”

          Source: I am married to a lovely, wonderful engineer who would totally stress out if I used the caps lock key instead of shift because it is not as EFFICIENT and you should at least TRY it my way do you not even realize how many microseconds you could save???????

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            I have coworkers who click into every field when filling in a form online or in our database or wherever instead of using tab, but I still refrain from pushing them to use tab, even though it’s a hundred times faster.

            1. sap*

              I’ve actually started clicking in rather than using tabs because I’ve encountered so many poorly designed websites where hitting tab actually doesn’t change the field/skipped a field that I have now come to the conclusion that it’s less efficient because of all the mistake fixing tab requires. So this one may be an efficiency.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Sometimes the preset tab order is not in the same order as my thinking. So there is that, too.

        8. Misc*

          I’ve definitely seen this behaviour from a lot of guys (more than not, generally), but one of the worst cases I ever experienced was female.

          I used to be a library shelver. I was officially one of the fastest/most efficient shelvers at any of the places I worked at, and had figured out exactly the right system for organising books in my cart and then getting them onto the shelf with maximum efficiency (I’m ADHD and have exactly zero tolerance for boredom, which means a LOT of time trying to make things even faster or occupying my brain analysing problems). I did this for years, and never had any interference from a manager beyond ‘do those books over there’ or ‘stop reading please’. It’s a very straightforward job, you do it well, or you don’t.

          Until… I had a very temporary female manager who decided to micromanage the order of books in my cart from day one (not even waiting to see if I shelved ‘too slowly’ or anything). Not only did she tell me the best way to organise them in her opinion, she kept coming and checking my cart! She probably hadn’t shelved in years, it just Bugged Her that I was Doing It Wrong.

          Let’s just say it didn’t end well, and it’s a good thing she was temporary. But I’d have happily taken up the challenge of Proving Which Method Is Fastest if she’d kept pushing, and she would have lost.

          Nitpicking on minor things that MIGHT improve someone’s workflow but would require time and effort for them to adapt to, or might actually not work FOR THEM as well as the observer expects because there are a bunch of other factors in play is never, ever a good strategy. Suggest it, let the user take a look and maybe try it on their own, and move on. If they can’t try it for themselves, it won’t work.

          And did I mention working in libraries? Explaining incredibly basic computer usage was a large part of that. I literally explained the space bar to people. You just don’t force people to do it your way, if they’ve figured out something that works for them, you just don’t. Either they’re competent and don’t need to be forced, or they’re not competent and are balancing very precariously and don’t need to be pushed off balance.

    2. Paul*

      I honestly don’t think it’s that out of line. I can see firing, or I can see not firing, but I wouldn’t consider it all that disproportionate. You don’t screw around with your coworkers/supervisor’s machines and set ups. And deciding that you know best and you’ll make everyone do it the way you think is most efficient come hell or high water is bad in a manager in a lot of cases, let alone an intern.

      1. Jessica*

        Tampering with someone else’s equipment in order to interfere with their work is, in my mind, a firing offense. It really doesn’t matter why, if the end result is that the coworker’s performance and efficiency is affected.

        I am also personally boggled at the audacity of an intern who works somewhere for 3 months and is such a micromanager that he or she tries to dictate how a person types, to the extent of going behind their back to screw with their hardware. WOW. Dear intern: as long as a coworker delivers their work according to agreed-upon expectations and processes, it doesn’t matter what their personal methodology is.

        At least getting fired for it should make the lesson sink in, one hopes.

        1. Kate 2*

          Less than 3 months actually, they were only a month into their term there when they did this and got fired!

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Yes, I’ve told the story here before about a coworker getting fired for going into another coworkers office and reading their instant messages (then later cussing them out). A big part of that firing was them going onto someone else’s computer, not just the cussing at coworker part. Big no no in general.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I think being an intern definitely put OP at a disadvantage in this situation. Also, Very Good Employee was upset, that was strike two. I don’t know how many times I have heard, “Don’t upset my excellent employee.”
        I can see a boss quickly concluding, “This intern stuff is too much work. I am done.”

    3. Lori*

      This issue could have been looked at by the employer as a security issue (the reason for the firing). If she was willing to overstep the boundaries to do the disabling of the caps lock key, then what else would she be comfortable doing that she wasn’t supposed to. It is a matter of trust would be the company’s point of view especially for an intern who they consider to be lowest status (similar to probationary status).

      1. Susanne*

        It’s not necessarily the actual disabling of the caps-lock key that is the offense, in my opinion. To me, the bigger issue is that you didn’t understand your “place” as an intern. Your place as an intern was to learn from others about the business world and/or your particular industry, not to become the corrector-of-others. To be clear, I think it’s great that you suggested a more-efficient way to her — that type of thing can and should be welcome. It is the pushing-the-solution-on-her that was the offensive part; it says that you didn’t fully understand that your place was low-man-on-the-totem-pole. Youthful enthusiasm is great; youthful bossiness isn’t so great.

        1. Jesca*

          I don’t even know if it was a “place” thing. I think it just showed (and maybe there were other instances) that the OP was a little controlling and intrusive. It also likely might have been the last straw if the OP was found focusing on minor pet peeves as opposed to the actual work. This is how I would take it, OP. This was a definite “Let it go” situation. Don’t let other people’s minor habits derail you from what is important!

          1. Susana*

            Actually, interns aren’t there to give *any* lessons. They’re there to learn.
            And this argument that not using caps lock is more efficient – it’s not, necessarily. For some people, holding down shift takes as much time/effort as clicking all caps on and off.

            I also find it unbelievably creepy that any co-worker – let alone an intern – would be paying attention to someone else’s typing style. Bad sign.

    4. CoveredInBees*

      I’m not sure I’d fire an employee for it, but I would have a different standard for interns. Certain things that I wouldn’t accept from an employee are learning moments for interns, but certain issues with someone who is there a short period (and often requires extra resources to train and supervise during that time) aren’t worth the effort of ironing out.

    5. LurkerBerserker*

      One analogy I can think of that might illustrate to OP1 how much of an overstep this was, using a more “advanced” keyboard efficiency example:

      Imagine if you had a co-worker explaining that Qwerty is an antiquated and inefficient keyboard layout, which you agree with, but you explain that you’ll continue to use it. Then you come to work and find that your keyboard has been swapped to Dvorak. Yes, learning Dvorak might make you a faster typist in the long run. But this kind of invasive and unsolicited “help” would not only slow you down for a while, it’s also just totally unpleasant.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        And now imagine that the Big Deadline is looming. You take on these kind of self-improvement, “sharpen your saw” projects when you have extra time, not whenever the summer intern decides it’s time for you to improve.

  5. CAA*

    #3 – a lot of companies have zero tolerance policies on porn and there are scanning programs that will find it on your computer. I have had to fire people at two different companies for violating this policy and both were found by routine IT scans. One guy did not know that his files were being backed up to a shared server, and the other guy had a lot of inappropriate files in his browser cache on a government issued laptop. In both cases the policy and the consequences had been delivered in written form in advance and the employees had signed off on receiving the info.

    Please follow Alison’s advice and get your own personal device to take on your trips.

    1. KarenT*

      Purely out of curiosity (and not because my work computer is full of porn!) how does an IT scan find porn? Is it file names, fIle types or is there more to it?

      1. Magenta Sky*

        File names are often a clue. Anything with “xxx” in the file name, or anything suggestive, is a sure sign. Also, any time you see a directory full of video files or images, not associated with an approved program, it will raise suspicions.

        Some companies also install continuous monitoring software that will immediately report off behavior.

        1. Matt*

          There also seem to be some quite good image recognition software out there today. Have you ever noticed on Facebook, if pics happen to be slow on loading, the alternative text describing mostly accurately what’s in the image? (“1 person with glasses, probably smiling, with cat”) … Don’t know if this is something that employers routinely use in search for porn …

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Google has an API (I think that’s what it’s called?) you can use to flag obscene images.

            In my experience it also flags a lot of pictures of kittens.

            1. Fifty Foot Commute*

              My iPhone has curated a “selfie” album that is mostly pictures of cats. Sometimes I’m in them too, but always cats.

                1. Jerusha*

                  Ack! Naomi KRITZER, not Naomi Novik! And it’s even right there in the URL staring at me.

            2. Creag an Tuire*

              “Dammit, Google, when I said I was uploading a picture of my roommate stroking her puss that isn’t what I meant.”

          2. Kelly L.*

            I’ve heard there’s a software that detects whether a video is more than a certain percent made up of skin tones. And also that some people got around it by tweaking their settings so everyone looks green.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              I’m just rereading Old Man’s War and I feel like there’s a CDF joke lurking in here somewhere…

              1. JeanB in NC*

                I just started rereading that too, just last night. I always wonder what shade of green they are – like forest green, apple green, khaki green? (The last one would be hideous.)

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  IIRC it’s described at one point as being light and not terribly glaring; I’ve always pictured something along the lines of the darker parts of iceberg lettuce.

            2. Misc*

              Oooh, that reminds me of the Star Trek anecdote about the tech department adjusting all the green out of the test recordings because they thought it was a camera issue and didn’t realise it was makeup :D

        2. Zombii*

          Do people still download porn? I assumed OP had meant going to porn sites, which, sure, is a huge virus risk—but Tumblr’s so full of the stuff I haven’t bothered to have an actual porn folder on my laptop for ages.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            It would be in your cache, though, and even if you clear that, isn’t it still on your “permanent record” somewhere?

            1. The Other Katie*

              Not if you use incognito mode, but I still think the OP should get their own device. (There may be other monitoring mechanisms in place.)

              1. Kali*

                My work devices don’t have incognito and we can’t delete our history. That was a fun lesson to learn (for nonporn related reasons thank god).

          2. sunny-dee*

            Certain sites could be blocked or monitored by the company networks. A lot of my work is done over VPN, and while a lot of non-work sites are accessible (like this one) there are ones that were blocked. I clicked a link off a company-approved site to read an article on Bleeding Cool and found out it is a blocked site. Even if you’re not on a VPN or company network, I’d always assume that IT has a backdoor login into my system, anyway.

            And, of course, if IT ever gets hold of your laptop or you back up data to a company location, you’re also screwed.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        There are a lot of methods – known file names, file names with certain terms, web traffic monitoring, image analysis software, even having a large number of image and video files can be a flag the computer is being used for personal stuff. If you signed an acceptable use policy, your organization may have stated it there.

        Porn is also a significant source of virus/malware. Our acceptable use policy says it’s not acceptable on work computers, and all employees have to sign off in acceptable use to be issued a machine.

    2. MillersSpring*

      Good grief. People need porn so much that they can’t contemplate a work trip without it?

      1. TL -*

        Some people travel 3 weeks out of 4 or go on months long business trip and either way, what you do in the privacy of your own hotel room is your business (just keep it off the work devices.)

      2. Kim D.*

        So what? Let people enjoy what they enjoy. It can get lonely in a hotel and not everyone is into sudoku.

      3. Susanne*

        I agree with MillersSpring. You’ve got a real problem if you can’t handle a work trip without it.

        BTW, my company fired someone after they noticed heavy streaming usage attributed to him. Turns out he was doing his regular work on his computer, but had brought in a personal laptop and was using the company internet / wifi to download porn onto it all day while he worked. What a stupid move. He did good work, but he’ll never get a good recommendation.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Whoa, can we not be so judgy of this kind of thing? The OP didn’t say they couldn’t handle the trip without it; they just asked a question.

        2. Jill of All Trades*

          I mean, if you’re going on a 2-3 month work trip and your partner is remaining at home…people have needs. Let’s not judge the OP, please. They know how to fulfill their needs better than we do.

        3. JM60*

          It’s stupid to use your employer’s resources to download that content, but it’s even stupider for that company to automatically fire someone who was doing good work for that reason. The fact that it was adult material that was going through the wifi doesn’t affect the company’s bottom line any more than if it were non adult material, unless there’s some kind of sexual harassment element to it (e.g., watching the material at work).

          1. sunny-dee*

            It is totally reasonable and not at all stupid to fire someone for accessing porn at work. There’s the sexual harassment angle, the IT security angle, the risk of illegality.

            1. JM60*

              If by ‘access’ you mean watch, then yes, firing for that can be pretty reasonable for the harassment angle. But that’s why I included the caveat sexual harassment at the very end of my post. However, the person I was responding to said nothing only mentioned downloading it using the company’s Internet. It’s not clear if he was streaming videos, downloading torrents, downloading files from Usenet, etc. If the extent of him ‘accessing’ it was him downloading a pre-planned batch of files to his own computer, that’s not harassment, which is generally the biggest issue when it comes to porn at work. And considering that he’s downloading it to his own device, it poses little security threat unless the person is a moron when it comes computer security.

          2. Toph*

            In the past at companies I’ve worked for the IT policy explicitly forbid streaming or downloading video in general, unless it were approved for a work purpose. Guy could’ve been downloading Finding Nemo and still would’ve been in major trouble. Every time there was a report of the wifi suddenly being incredibly slow, track it down, it’s someone downloading tons of movies. I think it’s entirely reasonable to discipline an employee for breaking that rule, up to an including firing, even if they were otherwise doing good work. The sexual component makes it worse, but it’s not the only reason this is a stupid thing to do at work.

            1. JM60*

              If your company has shortages of bandwidth, then such a policy would make sense. But I think that firing someone is a very extreme reaction.

              As for the sexual component, yes, people shouldn’t access sexual material at work. However, the main issue with viewing porn at work, sexual harassment, isn’t much of an issue if the extent of them accessing the material is clicking the resume button on a batch of downloads. And the other main concern, security, is about as much of a problem as if he downloaded the material at home the night before. After all, since it’s his own computer, the main security risk is his computer being infected by malware that can propagate through a LAN.

      4. blushingflower*

        I take a vibrator with me when I travel for work. I don’t always use it, but it’s a reliable method of stress relief and it often helps me sleep when I’m in an unfamiliar bed.

        1. Havarti*

          Never had the guts to pack one in my suitcase. After someone posted that the TSA left them a message in their suitcase commenting on their items… Nope. Nope nope nope. D:

          1. Howdy Do*

            I’ve packed all manner of “marital aid” and I’ve had them questioned when TSA was rooting around in my bad but I have zero guilt or shame about it and just say “It’s a vibrator.” I mean, they’re all up in people’s underwear and xraying folks, I really am not worried about their judgement.

        2. Jessica*

          Yeah, but a vibrator will presumably never be used as a work device or logged onto a work network.

          1. OhNo*

            I dunno, they do have wifi and bluetooth-connected toys now. Anything could happen.

            How embarrassing would that be, trying to explain to IT that accidentally synced your work tablet with your Vibemaster 6000?

      5. JM60*

        This probably varies greatly from person to person, but not wanting to forgo adult material for a half week doesn’t necessarily mean that you have an issue. A lot of people, especially men, consume it more often than that. Of course, if you’re so addicted to it that you’re willing to jeopardize your job over it, then you have a problem (and Alison’s advice of bringing or buying your own device is best).

      6. Misc*

        Or maybe they just want to know because they don’t usually worry about what they click on? Or don’t want to rule out an option for personal entertainment because there’s literally nothing else to do, just because they happen to be stuck somewhere for business? Or they like reading/watching stuff that’s NSFWish and don’t want to worry about whether it might officially be considered ‘porn’ if their boss looked at it? I’m asexual and I still end up with a LOT of NSFW content crossing my screen.

      7. Ex-IT Ace*

        Yeah, that amazes and dismays me too.. I suppose I always thought adults had more sense and self control. Porn just doesn’t belong on a workplace-owned device, regardless of whether that device is commonly shared with others or not.
        I used to work in IT for a hospital, back before there was software that could be installed over a network to check for porn on employee devices. While repairing a malfunctioning 486 for a supervisor in Maintenance, I found his HD just stuffed with highly disturbing, grotesque, horrible child porn (ALL child porn is disgusting and disturbing and horrific, but this was particularly terrible and perverse). I brought it to the attention of my boss, who looped HR in on it, who called the police. This was before most small town police jurisdictions had anyone on staff who knew how to handle computers, let alone computer crimes, and I had to be the one to assist the police with categorising and creating copies of those repulsive, disgusting images for use during court. And I was called to testify against the perverted creep.

        My shock over the fact that so many adults seem to have such little self-control regarding porn may have a lot to do with my being asexual though. I don’t use porn at all, and never have, so maybe I am the one who is the odd one out here.

    3. let the moose loose!*

      OP3: on a more helpful note, if you can’t have your own device for whatever reason, you could just use a live Linux on a USB key. It’s essentially a full-blown OS on a key and does not use the hard drive to store files (unless you choose to save something, which in this case would be unwise) and leaves no traces on the HDD for anyone to uncover.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Uh, I’m not sure it’s helpful to coach someone in how to use work devices to view porn. Aside from the whole, “your company owns your device and has a right to inspect it, monitor its use, and do the same for any peripherals (including a USB key)” thing, accessing porn on company devices can cause massive security issues, as well. And to be honest, 99% of people are not as slick at this as they think they are. From an employment-safety perspective (i.e., how not to get fired), it’s way better to approach devices as if all your activity—not just internet activity or activity over a company network—is being recorded and monitored by your employer.

        Just don’t do it, OP#3. Please, for the love of Pete, don’t do it!

        1. The IT Crowd*

          From a purely hypothetical perspective, using a live Linux session would have a significantly lower chance of causing a security concern than using your standard Windows install

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Plugging a USB in is often against terms of use policies though, so I don’t think that’s viable.

            1. blackcat*

              Even if a USB thumb drive is allowed, the “boot the computer with an alternate OS” will be frowned upon.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          Also plugging a USB key with a bootable OS into work hardware sounds like a *really* good way to get in hot water with IT to me. My former employer did not care one iota what I did on my work laptop (and I went on a lot of business trips and used that thing to watch a lot of netflix) and I suspect would have ignored if I’d accessed porn (not that I would ever), but they would have nuked me from orbit if I’d plugged a bootable linux USB key into my machine. That just screams “I want to do nefarious things with the file system”.

          1. Jenny*

            Yeah any security risk to the computer system is the one thing they will fire for immediately at my job and I am sure many others. Both the solution you propose and downloading porn would run afoul of the policy.
            Huuuuuuge no no.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Yes, this is a good example of when your company won’t care one whit for your intentions or your technical comprehension of what you were doing.

              Buy a tablet.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yeah, this was my concern with the “solution” proposed—it almost always violates other policies put in place by an employer to minimize security risks… including concerns about theft of confidential files/info—running an alternate OS, ime, is a great way to trigger fears that you’re doing something shady with data, which is a different world of problems than porn.

          3. nonegiven*

            Or it could scream I want private, secure access to my banking sites. Some security experts have advised never accessing online banking without live linux.

      2. sap*

        Yeah. I am a technology lawyer and my husband designs interweb security, and both of us always suggest to employers that don’t have policies on USB drive usage that they develop them (and that the policy is “you can only use one we gave you”). If OP’s company has any sort of competent monitoring, this workaround would cause way more of a red flag + investigation since corrupted USB stick are insanely common and one of the easiest ways to get into a secure network. While OP might not get caught with streaming the porn (but shouldn’t do it anyway), if the company noticed booting from a USB device they would investigate the hell out of that and definitely catch the porn.

        Never, ever try this with your work device; at most places this could easily be a first time fireable offense (for the same reason that someone above noted that if O 1 disabled capslock with a registry edit, that was rightly a first time fireable offense.)

    4. I'm Not Phyllis*

      Yes – please don’t do this. It’s 101% not worth the risk to your job. Bring your own device, go old school and rent a DVD, or whatever you need to do but absolutely don’t do it on your work computer.

    5. Jesca*

      The biggest issue with porn is malware and viruses. This is why you shouldn’t use your work computer. Use a device that you are ok with having to fix yourself. Even the trusted sites can get pretty easily infected.

      1. JM60*

        Porn poses very little security risk when the user is competent. The risk of getting malware through a browser is very low if the user doesn’t do anything stupid (like downloading and running a file that the site says they need to install), the software is kept up to date, and your using a decent anti-virus. Of course, even a little risk can be too much in certain lines of work.

      1. zora*

        Well, in countries other than the US, devices often aren’t as cheap as they are here. But finding the cheapest smart phone you can find, and using it only over wifi, seems like a good investment in this case.

    6. sap*

      I’m going to just leave this funny story about workplace porn use here:

      At my old job, I worked with a good friend of mine (friendship predating the job and at the same level). He is a gay man.

      He had a long term project that, at the time I left, had lasted at least 2 years that required him to watch and analyze a shitload of lice action and still pornography, most of it about women. He had an office with a closing door, but he was constantly afraid that someone who didn’t know about the project would see what he was watching and complain about it. I said that if anybody thought that as a gay man he was enjoying watching that many close-ups of ladyparts, the complaint would be pretty funny to have HR address.

      (Sometimes he would ask me “wait is this a real sex thing women do?” I learned about more things I never, ever want done to my lady bits from that gay dude than I have from any weird creeper I have ever been on a bad date with).

      1. sap*

        Live action, not lice action, but I guess with Rule 34… That may also have been a thing.

        1. Kali*

          I just spent an entire paraphraph stressing over what lice action was in relation to porn/vaginas.

  6. K.A.*

    #1: It seems that you acted like you were there to teach that woman how to do things when in fact you were there to learn. Alison’s right. You overstepped. You don’t get to mess with how someone else does their work.

  7. Positivity*

    #1, I want to reply to you before the inevitable comment swarm starts.

    We all make mistakes. I also lost a job because I made a mistake similar to yours, but I learned from it. You’re not a bad person and you will likely do well in life if you can learn from your mistakes.

    I know that all we know about you is that you had an internship and you got fired because of the caps lock incident. If there’s a comment pile on, which there will likely be, I hope you still take Alison’s advice and realize that we all make mistakes.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh. When lots of people weigh in with a similar message, it’s not inherently a pile-on so much as it just reflects the fact that there are a zillion commenters here.

      1. Fire*

        Yeah, there’s definitely been times when I start a comment and there’s only like ten comments on the page and then I post my comment and there’s a TON of comments and I’m really far down the list. And I type fast! A lot can be posted between first loading a page, reading the post, and then commenting.

  8. regular who wants to be anon*

    OP #3: I also travel for work a lot and I get the impulse. But when I take only company devices with me, I am very, very, very careful about the sites I visit, even if I open incognito/private browser windows. Certain things, like adult video sites, nsfw fanfiction, and my banking accounts, I won’t look at on company devices. Of course, this is a do-at-your-own-risk situation, but think of it as the computers at the public library that everyone can use. Do you really want to be that person looking at porn at the public library?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Seriously, I cannot even count the number of times I’ve seen people watching/responding to porn on public library computers. I imagine it’s much worse for librarians.

        1. Drew*

          I have a friend who is a librarian, and you are correct: it is worse. Cleaning the files off the computer is not the worst part of what she has to deal with.

        2. aebhel*

          It is. I catch people at it on public PC’s that are in full view of the main desk… like, what did you think was going to happen?!

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          You are correct. I have an acquaintance who is a public library branch manager, and her stories can be harrowing. She describes her job as 10% collection curration, 25% information management, 15% career counseling/technology educator, 40% social worker, and 10% janitorial work.

        4. Cassandra*

          Several of my public-librarian friends (and one or two academic-librarian friends working in undergraduate-focused libraries) tell me about patrons who specifically choose computers whose monitors are within sight of the reference and/or circ desks to watch porn on.

          It’s even happened to some of our students on internships.

          DO NOT BE THAT PERSON, PLEASE. That’s well into harassment.

          1. aebhel*

            That definitely happens. And it’s sort of ridiculous, since after the fifth or sixth time it happens, it’s not even shocking. It’s just ‘Sir… that’s a violation of our clearly posted computer policy. I’m blocking your card and I’ll have to ask you to leave now.”

            I’ve had many a disappointed patron who was hoping for a shocked!! face!!

            1. Electric Hedgehog*

              Isn’t it technically protected though? Thought I had seen some court ruling in favor of the porno-fiend at a library.

              It’s super gross.

              1. aebhel*

                Our terms and conditions for both WiFi and public PCs state that library resources cannot be used to access explicit materials as defined by the code of the village that is our tax district. My understanding is that we’re generally allowed to enforce those terms, although to be fair none of our porn-fiends have taken us to court over it.

              2. Howdy Do*

                It’s an ongoing debate in libraries. I am a very liberal, sex positive free speech kind of person (and I think in theory I’d agree it’s protected speech) but the only time I’ve been happy to live in a conservative state has been working in a public library where the computers all use a filtering system but my understanding is that isn’t the norm other places (the ALA is also against filtering I believe.) We could override it if something was blocked erroneously but it also meant that I had to kick people off for porn so much less often. Clearly, people are viewing the stuff in public to incorporate the other patrons and staff (against their will) into their sexual experience and it feels quite icky.

                1. aebhel*

                  My library doesn’t use filtering software except in the children’s room, but we are allowed to kick people off for viewing porn. Adults using computers with filtering have the legal right to request that the filters be turned off, but AFAIK that doesn’t mean they have a legal right (at least on the federal level) to use the library computers to watch porn.

              3. Kali*

                My mother works in a public library in Massachusetts. She is obligated to ask patrons napping inside for warmth to leave, but watching porn is allowed, and the staff have strict instructions that they cannot prohibit anyone from watching it. I was totally shocked when I learned this.

                The one time I went to visit her at work, an older man was asking her to help him print out the Wikipedia page of his favorite actress, who was a porn star. I asked “what are there odds” and she rolled her eyes and told me “pretty good.”

                1. Starbuck*

                  Yeah, I discovered something similar at college when a guy nearby (with monitor in clear view of a walkway & lots of other students) was viewing/downloading explicit porn… I went to the front desk to tell someone (assuming it was against the rules, and not wanting to see it myself) and the person manning the desk said they couldn’t forbid it, noting that there were classes on human sexuality taught on campus. Fair enough, but I still don’t think it should ever be acceptable to view pornography in public. If you can’t legally have sex in that spot, I don’t think you should be watching videos of it there either.

              4. Candi*

                It depends on what district you’re in.

                There’s somewhere down in CA that has watching porn in public at the library protected under ‘free speech’ by court decision. Yes, where kids can see. (The commentator on the Not Always Right story only identified it as a large city in south CA. She stated she worked at such a library.)

                On the flip side, my state is not particularly conservative. But our county library system sidestepped the whole issue by pointing out that porn sites are notorious for viruses and other nasty bugs, including ones where the connection is enough to present a risk of infection. Dealing with the infection would mean using resources funded by taxpayers and donors to clean the computers and servers.

                They got permission to block and kick people off.

                The flip side is they have to do the same for other high-risk sites, even SFW ones. So a church or charitable website done with great enthusiasm but poor security? That can get blocked as well.

                It just depends on where you are.

        5. Misc*

          Hahaha, we used to have students sneak into a side room for porn (very against policy and they knew it), but people snitched on them so I got to go kick them out. They were always kinda confused about how the librarian Just Knew. My favourite was the one who needed tech support help with his actual assignment and had 20 tabs with Obvious Pron Titles visible and was completely flabbergasted at my amazing librarian mindreading when I told him he wasn’t allowed to access porn.

      2. FD*

        I once had to tell a person on our lobby computer at hotel that he couldn’t watch porn there. In view of all of the other people coming and going.

        ………….Now that I think about it, I wonder if that was WHY he was doing it? I assumed at the time he was just an idiot.

    1. Anon55*

      +100000 for “the impulse” haha!!

      Yes definitely get your own tablet for something like this, OP. Beyond the obvious concern of someone finding it, do you ever think you’re pasting a link into an email and find that you accidentally forgot to hit copy and are now pasting something totally random? You don’t want “totally random” to be porn, am I right?

      1. Wendy Darling*

        You can get a basic Kindle Fire for like $50. I have one in my kitchen. Its name is Recipe Book, and it exists to be cheap in case I slip and dump a pot of boiling water on it on accident.

        It’s not a great tablet but it’s quite functional and very inexpensive!

        1. Marzipan*

          They were even cheaper on Prime Day. Like £25 or something. I think my colleague bought one, he was like ‘might as well’.

    2. Paul*

      I know our security and I know (roughly) what measures our IT contractors take to handle company PC stuff.

      Incognito does nothing to keep your web browsing from them. Just…trust me. I don’t know *how* it all works mind you, but it does. I do use an incognito tab to browse our local paper sometimes (you get one free story per month on their website, but incognito apparently gets around it–not very sophisticated!) while traveling.

      On the flip side, provided the connection is secure, I feel pretty safe using my bank website on a work device while traveling; we’re fairly secure :)

      1. GermanGirl*

        Incognito mode just means that the browser doesn’t save your history. So the next person sitting at the computer wouldn’t see which sites you looked at in the drop-down of the address bar or the recently closed tabs or the history page.

        But whoever has access to your internet connection (e.g. a company proxy server, a company-installed logging script on your work computer, or even the router of the internet access point you happen to use) can still log all the requests you made from your browser.

        As for banking, the banking site hopefully uses a certified https (most browsers mark the https green if it is certified). This means the data you send (password, how much money to transfer to where) is encrypted, but when you connected to the site and how many requests you sent is visible to anyone monitoring your internet connection.

        Also, a vicious company admin could theoretically install a keylogger on your computer, which would allow her to read everything you typed including your passwords.

    3. seejay*

      Also: porn sites contain viruses. And malware. And stupid popups that install crap onto your browser and hard drive. You might think you’re smart or avoiding it, but all it takes is one mistake and tada, you’ve touched the poop.

      Do you *really* want to be that guy who infected the office with a virus or malware or accidentally sent confidential files/data out because you got hacked or back-doored because you wanted to surf some porn while you were travelling for work? That’d be fun to explain to your IT/security team.

      There’s more to online porn than naughty pictures. If you can’t go without, get your own tablet or buy an old fashioned magazine.

      1. JM60*

        I agree that there is a valid security concern and that being your own device is the way to go. However, I do want to point out that while adult sites tend to have more malware, it’s not an issue intrinsic to, or exclusive to, adult material.

        Porn poses very little security risk when the user is competent. The risk of getting malware through a browser is very low if the user doesn’t do anything stupid (like downloading and running a file that the site says they need to install), the software is kept up to date, and your using a decent anti-virus. Of course, even a little risk can be too much in certain lines of work.

    4. Oryx*

      Like the Chrome incognito browser says: you aren’t invisible and going incognito doesn’t hide it from your employer.

  9. So Very Anonymous*

    #1: When I was in college, I had a roommate who dealt with her anxiety by cleaning. And I’m a messy-desk person. I’d have materials for my history paper, say, all over my desk. I’d come back from somewhere and find my desk totally clean with no clue where my papers, index cards (yes, I’m old), etc. were ARRRRGGH. Don’t mess with people’s workflows.

    Something I wondered about, also: were you regularly using her computer for some work-related reason, or did you use her computer just to disable the caps lock key? If you don’t usually use her computer, the optics you sitting at her computer fiddling with it aren’t good. For all you know your colleague may have had confidential materials on her computer.

    1. So Very Anonymous*

      Meant to add: this is not meant to pile on, but the comment about using her computer jumped out at me. You’re early in your career and this is a mistake you can easily learn not to repeat :)

    2. KarenT*

      That’s a really big point. How the OP gained access may have played a role in how seriously this was perceived.

      1. So Very Anonymous*


        Also, if I’m the employee, I am going to be wondering why someone is watching my fingers as I type…

        1. Jen RO*

          One of my coworkers uses Caps instead of Shift and it’s very noticeable, trust me. It only took 5 minutes of watching her type while I was training her.

          1. The RO-Cat*

            I’ve looked at a friend doing the CapsLock thing and it was painful to see. Like someone trying to fell a tree using a jagged knife. Still, it was their tree, not mine. And, besides that, they seem very competent with the knife so I just let them be.

            1. Jen RO*

              Yeah, exactly – their “knife” seems to work well. My coworker is fully aware that her Caps Lock usage is weird, but trying to change would slow her down too much.

              My only beef is that, because of this non-standard usage, she also remapped some keys, so whenever I go to her computer I can’t figure out how to paste something!

              (Before this gets misinterpreted – I use her computer when we do hands-on training.)

            2. Mookie*

              (Re the capslock v shift key, it’s a small hands- and/or mobility issue, for some folk, same as being unable to [conventionally] finger an octave on a piano.)

              1. Hekko*

                In some cases it may also be dependant on what letters/characters you need to type. On the Czech keyboard, most of the special letters of our alphabet (like ř or ý) are located where numbers are on a standard English keyboard. Pressing the keys with shift gets me a number, pressing them with caps lock on gets me capitalised special letter (Ř or Ý). I can get the same with shift using 2 keys in succession, but caps lock is more convenient for me.

                Though that’s more a curious factoid at this point. :)

                1. Clewgarnet*

                  Oh, THAT’S why I couldn’t figure out where the special letters were! I resort to copy-and-pasting when typing Czech…

              2. Jenny*

                I thought of that. I have small hands and bought of tendinitis. My typing habit are set so i don’t use capslock but i could see doing it on a bad hand day. Some days separating the pinky finger from the rest of your fingers hurts.

              3. Sarianna*

                Thia is why I use CapsLock. I know it’s less efficient, even though I still type around 75wpm. But I buy my winter gloves from the children’s section because even the small women’s ones are too big, and I also have a condition that affects my joints. Using shift is a whole lot less comfortable and tends to put me on the pain train ahead of schedule.

                1. Mookie*

                  I don’t even really see it as sub-optimal because, as you say, once you hit an error-free 60+ wpm in English without harming yourself, you’re fine, irrespective of how non-standard the method is. “Home” position varies for so many people, and sweeping across the keyboard to avoid pinky action — particularly for left-handers using QWERTY — just comes naturally, I think. My generation never received much in the way of touch-type training, ditto “cursive,” and to my eyes we don’t seem any better or worse off for it. Great equalizer, soft modern keyboards are.

                2. Stephanie the Great*

                  Yep. My hands are small. It’s more comfortable to me than it is to weirdly stretch across the keyboard to hold the shift key and the key I want to capitalize. My way works for me, I type faster and more accurately than most people I work with (which is how I end up designated note-taker, unfortunately…).

          2. Observer*

            Yes, but you were training her, so you were watching what she was doing far more closely than one would expect a co-worker to do.

    3. MillersSpring*

      I similarly get annoyed when people right click and select Paste instead of typing Ctrl-V, but I would never touch their computer or disable the function.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Recently I had someone tell me to use right click as control V does a weird thing in a program we use. I explained I have been using this shortcut for as long as I can remember and it is automatic so even if I want to do it another way I will do that. They said something about being more flexible. Through gritted teeth I explained, again, that it was implicit memory and I couldn’t just suddenly do it differently.

        1. MadGrad*

          I think your example points out the key issue here: in the LWs case, this isn’t something that actually matters. When your boss asks you to go through the effort of taking your time and beating down a habit for a work reason, it makes sense to do it. Otherwise, if it isn’t that big a deal and your boss doesn’t care, the time and effort to change is more of a bother than whatever inefficiency it’s trying to fix. Sabotaging your coworker’s workflow in secret for a pet peeve is way inappropriate.

        2. Stellaaaaa*

          If I’m doing something that’s right-hand-intensive (like using the keypad a lot) I might have a coffee in my left hand and it’s easier to use my right hand on the mouse for the right click + copy/past. Sometimes It’s just the way I’m sitting and I don’t feel like getting my left hand involved for the keyboard shortcuts, since the a/c/v are on that side.

        3. 0phen*

          I am now wondering how in the world a developer could think it was a good idea to assign any action other than copy to crtl+v.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            It’s actually a bug. They suggested I use right-click. Not going to happen. Too ingrained!

        4. Nea*

          Through gritted teeth I explained, again, that it was implicit memory and I couldn’t just suddenly do it differently.

          At the risk of derailing, this is one of the reasons why I give scorching side-eye to people who decide that “one space after a period” is a hill both they and I need to die on. Child, I was using a manual typewriter longer than you’ve been alive and most browsers/word processors eliminate the extra space anyway. It’s not a hill to die on, it’s not even a riser step to stub a toe on, and I’m a very fast typist even with all those extra spaces.

          1. sam*

            I’m the same way. It’s basically muscle memory at this point, and no matter how much I “know” I shouldn’t do it, it just automatically happens. I work on some “shared” documents with other departments where one space after the period is the general rule (these are filings we do with the government and people across the company work on them), so what I do is just type the way I want, and then go back at the end and do a find/replace for the “period-space-space” and replace it with a “period-space” for my sections.

            Someone else who is in charge of the document does this as well for the entire document, because I’m sure I’m not the only one who does things like this. But I try to be responsible for my stuff :)

            1. teclatrans*

              I have tried to switch to a single space after periods, but muscle memory kicks in, and I end up with about 1/3 single and 2/3 double. The frustrating thing is that the single space is sort of becoming muscle memory too, so everything I type now has a mixture of styles. Find/replace is definitely my friend.

            2. DecorativeCacti*

              I edit documents all day long and the very first thing I do is find/replace double periods. No one else would ever notice (or care) but it makes me feel better. Aside from the occasional heart attack when I turn on hidden characters, it’s really not a big enough deal to try to change how someone types.

            3. Jaydee*

              I have switched to single space after a period but have lots of form letters and documents that predate that or were originally authored by other people. I do the same find/replace as you.

          2. Artemesia*

            Exactly. I have been touch typing for nearly 60 years and learned on a manual typewriter (I am the person who wears the letters off my laptaps in about 6 months — I don’t need to have them labeled but it still makes me the laughingstock of the family) — it is all muscle memory now and those double spaces or whatever are pretty automatic.

        5. Lynn Whitehat*

          I’ve gone to the dark side and started doing that. I switch among Windows, Mac, and Linux a lot, and also use some oddball programs where paste is something other than Ctrl-V. I finally gave up on committing all the different shortcuts to muscle memory.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Well, I think the point was that it can be kind of annoying to watch someone do something you know is a more laborious or time consuming way of doing things. The secret is not to care!

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            But it’s not more laborious or time-consuming for the person using that method—retraining to do it more “efficiently” (i.e., applying another person’s preferences) oftentimes is more laborious and time-consuming.

            This is an imperfect analogy, but it sounds a lot, to me, like a right-handed person asking a left-handed person to write right-handed because “it’s faster” or “less likely to smudge.”

            You’re right that the key is to stop expending energy caring about how someone else does it, but I also think it’s worth taking a step back to remember that our preferred way of doing things is not inherently better/faster for someone else.

            1. Mookie*

              Yep. It comes down to personal superstitions borne from habit, rather than prejudices, I think. I live in fear of losing data, and so am mildly scandalized whenever people in my eyeline don’t regularly “select all + copy” whatever they’re working on. And that’s my problem, not theirs, and would turn into a cumbersome and productivity-killing burden for anyone forced to do it.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Great analogy about smudging with the left hand.
              I have trained a lot of people. It’s amazing to watch how something that works for me or works for most people can totally confound a person. It can throw them all off track so that unrelated things start going out of whack also as the person become rattled or distracted. I landed on showing people what works okay for most people and I told them to make it their own, meaning tweak it to suit them. As long as people’s productivity was up, then there was no problem. What used to fascinate me, was the response of the folks who could not use x way (general method) and their y way was too time consuming. I’d say, “That looks like it’s slowing you down and frustrating you. See if you can come up with some tweaks to make it easier for yourself.” Then I’d walk away. A while later, I would see that they had come up with modifications that I can only describe as brilliant. It’s nothing I ever would have thought of and it worked perfectly fine. It ended up that people I was supposed to be training actually taught me something. Some of their tips got incorporated into the group methods.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                It’s a good example of being new to work vs experience–if you have been around awhile you probably have observed a lot of things working for some people that wouldn’t work for you, and you’re okay with that. (Same with parenting–methods and solutions are far more case specific than newbies tend to think. Then you have a second child and it turns out half what you learned with the first one doesn’t apply to this one.)

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  I have to take out the experience thing, because apparently some people can amass decades of life experience and still be mad about the way other people make sandwiches. Still, it’s something I’d allow more leeway for eventually falling away in a young adult.

          2. MillersSpring*

            Correct. I was making an analogy. Lots of things can be seen as inefficient, but you stop yourself from rigging someone else’s tools or environment.

          3. AMD*

            “The secret is to not care!”

            Our computer software has different search functions linked to the F6 and F7 keys, and it is maaaaaaaddening to watch people go up to the “Search” menu, click, drag down to the search function they want… I finally had to just resign myself to training new people to use the keyboard shortcut, and let the people who were used to doing it the other way continue to do it that way. It was a character building exercise for me.

        2. Artemesia*

          I touch type and am astonished at the number of people who two finger it or use other inefficient approaches. Haven’t given that lecture to anyone yet.

      2. acmx*

        One of my coworkers did not like that I used the snip tool to do a screenshot and instructed me how to do it another way. When I figured out that he was just showing me an alternative way, I shook my head. Then he got offended I was in disbelief bc he was trying to help lol

        (He’s a nice coworker just has a bit of a “dad” type behavior and not just with me).

        1. SomeoneLikeAnon*

          I have three monitors at work! Snip is a life saver to screen shot one screen instead of all three and having to crop it all.

          1. Kitten*

            You can use Alt+[ScreenPrint Key] to get just the active screen by the way – that used to drive me crazy too.

            (not a ‘do it my way’ comment, the Snip Tool sometimes doesn’t capture hover-menu’s which is infuriating when you’re building User Guides)

            1. nhb*

              I’ve used the Alt + Print Scrn as well for a screenshot of just one screen, but then I can’t have any menus open, or else they autoclose, and I don’t get the mouse icon on the screen. So when I’m writing up procedures, or a “how-to” guide, I have to Ctrl + Print Scrn, and then crop. Except now I’m going to use Snipping Tool because I never even considered that before!

              1. Kitten*

                Hi @nhb,

                I used to combine Snipping Tool and Paint to put my arrows in – Snipping Tool is not always great at holding your hover menus because you have to open the Snipping Tool window to access the ‘new’ button.

                I generally found that dumping the shot into Paint and putting a box and a pointer on the relevant piece helped me out though.

                (I am not doing well on the ‘leave other people’s workflows alone’ issue today, oops).

                1. Newt*

                  At a previous job, we were given an alternative to the snipping tool that was automatically bound to your printscrn button, and it was brilliant.

                  It would lock whatever was on your screen at the time you pressed it – hover menus, cursor and all – and present you with a separate controllable cursor that you could use to make shaped, square or round snips of the screen with using various keys. So useful.

                  So impossible for me to find anywhere to download since I left there!

            2. Jubilance*

              OMG you just saved my life! I’ve been having to screenshot & then crop – I never knew there was a shortcut for the active screen! Thank you!

            3. Dweali*

              I can’t figure out the snip tool (and only know that it is available to me because my lunch cover has used it repeatedly on my profile) but use Ctrl+Alt+print screen all the time…the worst for me is when 365 decides it doesn’t want to paste the screen shot so I have to save it in Word to email.

              1. Tirannie*

                Always check with your IT department to see if they have alternative licenses available!

                Everywhere I’ve ever worked would only give us snipping tool as the default windows tool, so I always submit a request to ask for a SnagIt license. 100% of the time, I get the license for the more robust tool, they just don’t advertise that it’s available.

                Worth asking just to see if you get it!

            4. Lady Russell's Turban*

              Thank you for this! I recently got two monitors and I am building a user guide for our team. Having to crop two screens was really annoying!

            5. kitryan*

              I didn’t know about this either and with two monitors I regularly have to zoom out and then crop so that I can get the bit I want- only capturing one screen from the start will be a big help! Thanks!

            6. MillersSpring*

              Kitten, if you’re building User Guides, would your organization let you download a better screenshot software? Many years ago, I enjoyed using SnagIt for software documentation, but I’m sure these days you can find many other options, some free and some $$.

              1. kitten*

                Hi @MillersSpring,

                Fortunately, I moved away from there – I just happened to be writing a quick and dirty user guide for a client with a question today and decided to mention the shortcut :)

                We did trial Captivate at my old job though. That was pretty cool for our remote workers and for presentations, but I wasn’t so impressed with the User Guide functionality. We did have a beautiful tool that did everything, but…. £££ so no go from C-Suite.

      3. Akcipitrokulo*

        I do both, depending on what my hands are doing at the time – it’s not necessarily more efficient to use shortcut keys or right-click – depends. If my fingers are already on the mouse, it would take far to long to use shortcut keys – if I’m typing, it would take far to long to move hand to mouse.

      4. Pomona Sprout*

        But… but… but… I’m exactly the opposite–always right click to copy, cut, paste, etc. That’s how I learned to do it, it works for me, and nobody has the right to tell me not to! I can’t even remember what all the keyboard shortcuts are, because I never use them. If someone tried to make me change over, it would annoy the hell out of me and slow me down to a snail’s pace until I managed to retrain myself. If someone else would rather do keyboard shortcuts, that’s their choice, but it doesn’t me I have to do it that way. To each his/her/their own, different strokes for different folks, etc.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’ve always used macs, which don’t have left and right buttons, and so found all the right click explanations bewildering.

          1. Jessica*

            I use a Mac for work, and I set the trackpad so that a two-finger tap on the right side of the trackpad acts as a double-click. I use PCs at home, so it was one thing that made it easier for me to be able to switch between OSes without having to think too hard.

        2. LavaLamp*

          The program I use for work doesn’t let you right click. At all. You have to use Ctrl-V or you’re just not going to paste anything. I never did figure out why, its’ just the way the program was made.
          Plus we automatically type everything in capital letters in that program, to prevent confusion.

          I learned to type in the fourth or fifth grade. My computer teacher actually made a giant keyboard with velcro buttons and made us memorize it, and we had to do daily drills in a typing computer game.

      5. CoveredInBees*

        I have a friend who uses the backspace key to go back and fix a typo before retyping everything she’d deleted. It is excruciating to watch. I mentioned that she could use the back arrow key or a mouse click to get there without the retyping but she said this is how she types. I let it go and tried to never think about it again.

        1. bkanon*

          Every time I see TV people hitting backspace a thousand times to delete something, I just want to writhe in anguish. Highlight, delete! But no.

        2. Oranges*

          My mom does that too! Drives me bananas to watch her type. This is why I will look anywhere BUT at her screen when she’s typing.

        3. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

          I do this. It’s faster to retype a few words than to take my hands off the keyboard in order to use the mouse
          or the arrows to go back to the misspelled word.

        4. GirlwithaPearl*

          Eh, sometimes I do this because it helps further clarify my thinking/ writing and allows me to improve the sentence.

        5. Not So NewReader*

          With my old computer, it was easier to backspace/retype. Reinserting the cursor in the misspelled word could take 15 minutes for the computer to figure out what to do.

    4. Ramona Flowers*

      But access to settings and access to files = not the same thing. You can change keyboard settings without accessing files. And if they’re confidential they shouldn’t be accessible to someone else. That ones on her.

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        Well, the confidential-files part was pure speculation, and there’s nothing in the letter about that. :) My main point was that sitting down at someone else’s computer and fiddling with it just isn’t a good look unless there’s an explicit reason for it. The invasiveness — regardless how deep it could actually go — just struck me as a possible reason for the firing.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I read ‘when I was using her computer’ as being legit. Not sure it’s possible to tell from what’s in the letter.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think this really depends on where you work. There are a lot of places where it would look absolutely dodgy to be tooling around on someone else’s computer without permission or a work-related reason.

    5. Drew*

      You just gave me flashbacks to the time a roommate’s girlfriend needed a floppy disk to use our campus computer lab (this was a while ago) and just borrowed one that was sitting next to my computer. Because she was on a Mac and I wasn’t, she ended up formatting the disc containing my end-of-semester project, two days before it was due. (Of course I didn’t have a backup.)

      That was the time I discovered I knew profanity I hadn’t realized I had learned.

      The worst part was that she thought she was doing me a favor by formatting the disk for me and had no idea why I was so upset. She wanted us to sit down and talk about it when I really needed her to GTFO so I could recreate my project. Fortunately, my roomie got her out of there and promised to keep her away for the weekend.

      My instructor said she thought my project seemed rushed, but I still got a B.

      Don’t mess with people’s workflow, even (especially!) if you think you’re doing them a favor.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Reminds me of an anecdote I read, many years ago, from a man whose son had gone to computer camp and learned that you had to format a disk before you could use it. So he dutifully formatted the new copy of Windows his father had bought before he tried to install it…

    6. Turquoise Cow*

      Yes. I am not a terribly neat person. (Not sloppy, usually, but not super neat.) However, I know where my stuff is, and if someone else comes in and “cleans” for me, I can’t find things, and it makes me super annoyed and frustrated. Changing how my keyboard works would be just as annoying.

      The coworker in this situation might have a similar type of situation where she’s used to typing with the caps button. In any case, messing with another person’s things – computer included – is a serious invasion of personal space.

  10. InkyPinky*

    Oh my goodness, I think #1 is very much a fireable offense. I would lose my sh*t if someone did that to me, and especially an intern. It’s arrogant in the extreme. It’s like telling someone how they should drink their coffee and taking steps to force them into it. It’s pretty gross behaviour in my books and I would never trust someone like that anywhere near me again. If I was that employee, I’d be putting my foot down to ensure this person isn’t anywhere in my vicinity again.

    The other big, big flag here is that the OP thought it was a-okay to go onto another person’s computer and touch anything. Settings is obviously a big one, but if I were the boss, I’d be wondering what else the employee would be looking at next time someone accidentally leaves their computer unlocked around him/her. It just shows a complete lack of professional boundaries. You don’t go poking around in someone’s computer and that’s a trust/confidentiality issue. Especially if this internship is somewhere that privacy is an issue.

    And, I’m sorry OP#1, but you need to re-think your definition of efficiency and what’s important to employers in a workplace. Nit-picking over how someone types isn’t going to get you points, and it’s not really going to make a dent in that employee’s productivity. Spending your time looking for ways to shave off milliseconds from your workflow in the name of productivity means you’re likely missing bigger picture items you should actually be focusing on.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        We don’t have enough information about the overall circumstances to know whether firing – or the comment you replied to – are extreme reactions. It could be the first thing the letter writer had done that annoyed anyone in the slightest (and it’s easy to fix), or it could be the culmination of a series of incidents that any rational person would consider harassment, and absolutely anything in between. Some people get *very* upset when you tinker with their computer, and can lose hours or days of work getting over it.

        Disabling CAPS LOCK is a simple thing to reverse, but there are a lot of settings changes in any operating system that can take a *lot* of work to undo once they’re messed up. And people who aren’t doing computer stuff full time usually can’t tell the difference between the two.

        My first guess (with nothing to back it up) is that perhaps the company has had issues with this sort of thing in the past, and it ended up being a Big Deal. It’s easier than most people realize.

        1. Paul*

          I’m protective of my electronic setups; I don’t know that I’d jump right to “FIRE AND KEELHAUL” but man, I’d be upset.

        2. Jenny*

          Well think about coworker. I bet this setting change significantly.diaruptrd her workflow. Typing is so much muscle memory that either she had documents with no caps or she had to spend time figuring out there was a problem and wondering what it was (which would take a pretty significant chunk of Time because anyone would assume “bad key” before “someone changed my keyboard settings because they don’t like how I type”. I wonder if she tried finding and plugging in a new keyboard.

          1. aebhel*

            That was my thought as well. Absent any other information, it would take me a while to get to ‘someone disabled the capslock key on my computer’, because that’s such an invasive and bizarre thing for a coworker to do.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I’m not sure it would even occur to me before I got to “it’s obviously either what happened to the letter L hardware that time and I need a new keyboard, or some fiendish virus that gradually disables keys” and called in IT support.

              1. AJHall*

                I’d certainly call IT support if my capslock stopped working, and I bet it would be a frustrating and mutually baffling conversation which would probably waste about an hour, if the reason they weren’t working was that a person unknown has disabled them. I do wonder how much time the coworker was forced to waste trying to find a solution before OP bothered to mention they’d sabotaged her machine to force her to adopt a method of working she’d already told them she wasn’t interested in adopting. The last straw would have been OP telling her they did it to improve their efficiency!

                1. Newt*

                  That’s an important point. This whole “efficiency exercise” probably wasted a significant amount of not just the coworker’s time, but also their IT helpdesk staff’s time, too. Because I know the process over here would be:

                  1. Keyboard isn’t Doing The Thing. Reset PC because that is always step 1.
                  2. Still not working. Switch off PC and remove key to check for anything interfering with it like someone’s nail clippings or whatever.
                  3. Still not working. Ask a coworker if I can try swapping their keyboard for mine for a moment.
                  4. Still not working. Raise service desk ticket through support website. Attempt to work – more slowly – without the caps key while I wait for support.
                  5. IT helpdesk member comes to my desk and repeats steps 1-3 for me.
                  6. IT helpdesk member checks computer settings and discovers change that has been made.

                  You can easily lose a chunk of the day to that sort of process. Even if LW1 owned up to being the culprit before the support ticket was raised, it’s already gone on long enough to disrupt my work and the work of whoever I borrowed the replacement keyboard from.

                  And yeah, at permanent-new-staff level at my place this would be PIP/warning level behaviour. In an intern I can see them jumping straight to sacking. Because the underlying message LW1 sent here is that they do not respect coworker’s workspaces and techniques, they do not listen to their more senior staff who are training them, and they are willing to go behind people’s back to try and force solutions that have already been rejected, up to and including interfering with another person’s computer.

        3. DArcy*

          On a Windows computer, disabling CAPS LOCK is actually *not* that easy to do or to reverse; it requires either installing a third-party program like SharpKeys or making registry edits. Those are relatively trivial things to do if you’re a Windows geek, but someone who isn’t one would literally *never think of it* since it’s not in anywhere in the actual system settings.

        4. Observer*

          Disabling caps lock is easy to reverse IF YOU KNOW IT’S BEEN DONE. But, the OP didn’t even bother to tell the co-worker that they had done that. That makes the whole thing so much worse.

          1. cataloger*

            Yeah, I would just assume that key/keyboard was broken, maybe swap in a new keyboard, waste a bunch of time trying to figure out why that one wasn’t working either. Not a good day.

        5. Bea*

          I dont really think it’s that big of a deal. It was dumb and presumptious but unless there were other things going on with the letter writter this seems a little silly to me. Sorry guys. Argue away!

          1. sunny-dee*

            It’s not (just) that disabling the key is a big deal. It’s the violation of personal space and a complete lack of respect for someone’s habits in a way that, literally, could never affect the OP ever, under any circumstances.

        6. Sarah*

          Disabling caps lock might be a simple thing for an IT person to reverse, but I consider myself fairly computer literate and would have no idea how to do it myself. I’m sure I could Google a solution, but at that point I’ve expended waaaaaaay more time than could ever be wasted by how I use/don’t use caps lock in the first place! And depending on how comfortable with computers and playing around with settings the coworker is, this absolutely could require an actual IT person to take time away from whatever their regular duties are to come and fix. At this point, three actual employees of the company have had their productivity messed with (the coworker, the manager, and the IT person), and I can absolutely see how it feels like a better tradeoff to fire the intern.

      2. InkyPinky*

        True, it is. Someone doing something like that to me though feels very intrusive. I have a very visceral response to this type of thing – it’s a feeling of being monitored – though I’m sure there are people who wouldn’t be bothered – which makes me think some of what happened may have to do with the coworker and her response. And I would say that the intern’s response to a co-worker’s typing habits is extreme too. She’s actively preventing someone from doing something, which is something you don’t do to grown-ups.

        1. InkyPinky*

          (In case it’s not clear bc of the reply threads, I’m agreeing with Allison that my reaction is extreme. But I know that’s my personality and it works for me. Most days .)

      3. Anon55*

        Truth! When I was an intern I didn’t have a third of a clue about workplace norms and once screwed up copying news clippings. Seriously, I didn’t know how to copy a piece of the newspaper. The OP will likely look back on this and cringe, but sometimes that’s how we learn when we’re young!

      4. Traffic_Spiral*

        I think the problem here was that he didn’t learn. Considering that he still thought he was in the right after talking to HR and being fired, I’m guessing that the reason for firing wasn’t so much the fact that he did it, but the fact that the resulting conversation went like this:

        Boss: “Yeah, wow, so don’t do that.”
        Him: “But it’s not as efficient to use caps!”
        Boss: “So don’t use caps. But do not go secretly messing with other people’s computers because you don’t like how they type.”
        Him: “But using caps is wrong!”
        Boss: “I don’t care if she’s typing with her tongue! It’s her business – not yours.”
        Him: “But if she would just…”
        Boss: “Do. Not. Mess. With. Other. People’s. Computers.”
        Him: “But she was doing it wrong!”
        Boss *rubbing temples in the hopes that it will stave off a migraine*: “Yeah, ok, I don’t need this. Thank you for your time; don’t come back tomorrow.”

        1. KHB*

          This sounds very plausible to me. I can imagine the boss/HR trying to have the “do not ever do anything like this again, and there will not be another warning” conversation, getting a bunch of “but whyyyy?” in response, and ultimately saying “You know what, forget it.”

          In which case, the lesson about workplace norms the OP needs to learn is twofold. One, do not mess with people’s workflows, even if you’re trying to help. Two, when the boss or HR (or anyone senior to you, really) is telling you you’ve done something wrong, you need to back way off and listen to them. Even if you think they’re just unfairly “siding” with someone else against you, they have power over your employment, and they may very well use it.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            Agreed. The lesson is that “S/he who pays the cheque makes the rules,” so if the boss says “don’t do this” – don’t do it. Especially as an intern – your job is to shut up and learn. Or ask questions, and learn, but definitely not to argue when told not to do something.

        2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          I could totally see this. After all, school is about having the *right* answer, not the one that works for you.

        3. kittymommy*

          Ditto, I get the feeling from the letter that the intern kept pushing back iv the correction.

        4. SarahKay*

          Nothing constructive to add, but your imaginary conversation is hilarious. Especially the “I don’t care if she’s typing with her tongue!” which nearly had my keyboard covered in coffee!

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            Thanks. I was going to go with “I don’t care if she types with her ass!” but it occurred to me that ass-typing might actually not be workplace appropriate.

      5. sap*

        I’m not sure what industry OP1 works in, but there are a lot of industries where deadlines are very tight; if someone did something to my computer that slowed my typing by, like, 30+% (which has been the slowdown I have experienced when my keyboard has broken in the past) and I had something that really, really, needed to get done on an 8-hour turnaround, I can imagine that *I* might be fired depending on the deadline that I missed as a result. I would absolutely want someone who did something like this fired, because I am not fine risking that they will do something similar and get me fired in the future.

    1. Librarian of the North*

      I think the firing is extreme (although the attitude surrounding this action leads me to believe there may have been other issues) but I came here to say the same thing about messing with settings. It’s concerning to have an intern messing around in the computer settings of a superior.

      1. Jen RO*

        I think we all agree it was a mistake, but some of us just don’t feel it was a *fireable* mistake.

        1. Artemesia*

          A mistake is assembled the copies wrong; accidentally erased a file when trying to save it; filed something in the wrong place. Intentionally disabling a function on a computer seems more like misbehavior than mistake hence the firing.

          1. NaoNao*

            I think in this case it’s being used as “a mistake in judgement” or “mistaken belief systems” like “There’s a right way to do everything and regardless of your personal feelings or systems, you must adhere to that Right Way or I’ll make you adhere to it.”
            It wasn’t a slip-up, no. But the mistake occurred before the action: when the intern *mistakenly* went down that line of thought.

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          Well, it’s an intern – that’s not really the same as an employee, so they’re easier to fire.

        3. Katie the Fed*

          Messing with someone’s IT settings would get you fired where I work. And it’s hard to fire people where I work.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        But if the OP knew this and had all these points of reference, they wouldn’t have written this letter – it’s worth remembering they are just learning this stuff and don’t know WHY it’s concerning etc.

        1. Jessica*

          I find that hard to believe. Today’s interns grew up with computers assigned to them that were not theirs to own, with rules about when and how it was appropriate to use them. Colleges have rules about what you can and can’t do on their network and with lab machines. I can’t see how someone gets all the way to a college internship in today’s world without at least being *aware* that such rules exist.

        2. aebhel*

          I just… I can’t imagine doing something like this to a classmate in college, or to a family member, or to a friend or significant other, either, and I’m a socially awkward control freak who took a long time to get a grip of professional norms. ‘Don’t deliberately sabotage other people’s stuff’ is not really something you should need professional experience to grasp, IMO.

    2. JamieS*

      Agreed it sounds like OP has trouble seeing the forest for the trees. Since the coworker is an efficient typist it doesn’t sound like it was even an efficiency issue but more of a pet peeve.

      For me whether it’s reasonable to fire OP over it depends on a variety of factors such as the OP’s past performance, how OP gained access to the computer (have permission?), and how OP reacted to being confronted about the mistake. By itself I wouldn’t consider this a fireable offense in most industries if the guilty party was otherwise a good employee and took responsibility.

      Something I’m not clear on though is whether OP was fired and then went to HR or was fired after going to HR. If OP was reprimanded by the manager, went to HR to complain, and then still didn’t admit to being in the wrong after HR sided with the coworker and manager I’m not surprised OP was let go.

    3. always in email jail*

      If I had been assigned an intern to train and they went in and changed my computer settings to “prove” they were right, I would immediately go to my manager and say that I cannot work with them going forward. I would use all of my political capital to get them out of my life. Like InkyPinky, I had a very visceral response to this. I would treat an employee differently, but an intern is a much different dynamic. We’re doing interns favours by giving them the practical experience required for their degree.
      I know we don’t know the whole story, but I find it difficult to believe that someone who would step this far out of the bounds of norms did not have any other red flags before this.

    4. 5 Leaf Clover*

      I agree with InkyPinky that it’s a fireable offense. People keep saying, “don’t mess with someone’s workflow,” as if disrupting the job were the most important thing going on here. To me that’s minor compared to overriding someone’s *personal autonomy*. The OP’s colleague clearly stated they didn’t want to make the change, and the OP took steps to *coerce* them into doing it. That shows a shocking lack of understanding of autonomy and consent.

      1. Sylvia*

        I think those are pretty strong terms for this situation. To me, the problem is that she took it upon herself to teach her coworker, a grown woman, how to type.

        1. teclatrans*

          Hm, but, OP didn’t teach her, OP forced her to do it differently, presumably “for her own good.” I am comfortable with calling it coercion.

          1. Sylvia*

            OP was trying to teach her. I’m still not comfortable using those terms for messing with someone’s keyboard (not that messing with someone’s keyboard is okay, obv).

            1. Yorick*

              I agree. Maybe people don’t mean it this way, but it sounds like they’re comparing this situation to rape. That’s a huge stretch, imo.

              1. Gunter*

                Oh, please. There are far more forms of coercion than just coerced rape, and there are far more violations of personal autonomy than just rape. That you jumped there is a problem with your thinking, and is quite disturbing, since by your own comment therefore no one can ever talk about other forms of coercion/violation without “comparing it to rape” and thus being invalidated.

  11. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 Something really important to remember about working with people is that people aren’t robots – they are humans with their own individual quirks and preferences. You say you were trying to make things more efficient but your issue was with a person, not just a thing or a process.

    And while something might seem more efficient to you, people have their own ways of doing things for whatever reason (including habit – computer use is often automatic). Even if you didn’t understand why she typed that way, it was still the way she typed, and it was her choice to do that.

    It’s not okay to change someone’s equipment just to force them to see they should use it differently. Even if you think your way is best, you need to respect other people’s space, equipment and choices. It’s hard to trust someone who doesn’t do that – as what else might you do because you think you know better.

    1. Geoffrey B*

      This reminds me of the “brown M&Ms” thing, albeit accidental rather than a deliberately-created test. (context: http://www.snopes.com/music/artists/vanhalen.asp)

      If a co-worker did something like this to me, it’d probably take a couple of minutes to figure out how to re-enable caps lock (when I eventually noticed). But as you say, it would seriously undermine my ability to trust them on the important things.

      1. Oranges*

        That’s so cool. I’d probably be all grumbly about the brown M&Ms but do it. While grumbling.

    2. Leavepeoplealone*

      #1 needs to watch the tea and consent video. It goes for tea and typing and sex.

      It’s not just that this person was a know it all. It’s not just that they went into somebody else’s computer. They demonstrated that they don’t take no for an answer. I really wonder what else they did on the job the demonstrated an inability to take no for an answer

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That is such an excellent video, and it’s totally on point. I would have never have thought of it outside of the context it was made for, but it’s a good lesson on consent/boundaries in all areas of life.

  12. MommyMD*

    It’s not your job to monitor her typing or modify her computer. Ask yourself why such a small thing someone ELSE was doing that had zero bearing on you, created such a fuss in your head that you sabotaged her work computer. Learn from it.

    1. Blurgle*

      Sometimes younger people, for all their words of rebellion, are really bothered by non-conformity they can’t easily understand. They assume “different” is the same as “wrong” and become overly critical about things that on reflection don’t matter.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          +1. Variances in the ‘hall monitor’ tendency kick in early. Some kids are always reporting to the teacher about others’ inconsequential quirks and some aren’t fussed at all. When I was substitute teaching, it seemed like there was always only one kid per class who was really on hall monitor overdrive and filled with anxiety that the other kids might step out of routine and then . . . IDK, turn into a pumpkin?

          1. Allison*

            Yes, it’s definitely a thing but not a thing everyone does. I had classmates constantly police me, saying things like “teacher said to do it this way!” or “teacher said not to do that” or “Teeeeaaaacherrrr, Allison’s doing something wrong!”

            I distinctly remember a classmate in, I dunno, first grade maybe who would gasp three times, getting louder and more intense each time, and then go “you’re not supposed to do that!” Now, I can’t remember how often this happened, in my mind it was a common occurrence, but maybe it only happened once.

            Many kids grow out of it, others become adult know-it-alls. Like the ones who comment when you get up to leave at 4:58 when the handbook says the workday ends at 5, or the ones who give you a hard time for coming in 3 minutes late, or tell you to slow down when walking too quickly to a meeting. It’s not just the workplace either! I’ve had strangers “correct” how I do things in public, I’ve had peers in dance class make comments like “the teacher said to do it this way, but you did it this way” when I’m trying to override my default way of leading a move.

            I can’t tell if it’s a personality trait or something parents instill in their kids, but it’s not an age thing.

            1. Sylvia*

              One of my parents is a little hall-monitor-y. She’s a perfectionist who wants the best for everyone! She’s just trying to help. There’s some of this in me, too. It’s not an age thing.

            2. RVA Cat*

              This. In its most extreme form, you had the guy measuring his neighbor’s grass with a ruler – who turned out to be a serial killer (“BTK” I think?).

            3. teclatrans*

              My kid had to deal with this recently, with a seat partner who anxiously jumped all over her for not doing what (he thought) the teacher had instructed them to do. I can recognize that it was anxiety, she just thinks he’s a jerk.

              1. Gunter*

                Even if he has anxiety he’s still a jerk for treating someone that way. Mental illness isn’t an excuse. Consider maybe actually defending your kid instead of siding with her tormentor.

        2. sam*

          I mean, I’m 43 and I can sometimes get frustrated when I witness someone doing something technologically inefficient, but other than offering a “can I show you a more efficient way to do that?” ONCE, and then dropping it if they say no, I know that other people are not me.

          (I’m generally the go-to person for anything tech-related in my office, short of actual IT – technical/technological proficiency is just something I’m naturally inclined to, and it took me a while to realize that *I’m* the odd-man-out in almost any office. It also means that I serve as the IT department for my entire family).

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Oh, this is me, too. A lot of people love the suggestions that I offer, but it’s just that – a suggestion, and some people like their way better. Someone I work with does something that drives me crazy every time I go to help him with a technical thing, but it’s his way, he likes it, it doesn’t greatly impede progress, and he has many, many other redeeming qualities. :)

      1. Oryx*


        This is something that people of all ages are guilty of so let’s not assign it to one age demographic please.

        1. Gaia*

          I’m the first to jump at what is a perceived “kids these days” comments but in this case I think they are using “younger people” to refer to inexperienced people. Younger people of all generations are more inclined to behave this way (although certainly not all will) because they don’t yet realize it is inappropriate. And some younger people will become older people and never learn.

      2. Jill of All Trades*

        That’s funny, because as a “younger person” I see this behavior in “older people” all the time. This issue is not because of differences in age.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          “This issue is not because of differences in age.”

          Right — I think it’s more about inherent tolerance (or lack thereof) for ambiguity.

  13. Lady Phoenix*

    #1: People have their own habots that allows them to successfully work, and sometimes those habits Don’t make sense. Messy areas, caps lock, and other odd habits count. By messing with their habits, you ruin thwir workflow. You also give off the impression that you are invasive, like a mom reading their child’s diary. Those can be two big reasons why your coworker felt you should have been fired.

    So make sure you learn for this. If someone has an odd hanit, make a suggestion and leave it be if they decline. Any firther pushing or manipulations will cause stuff to backfire.

    1. Jan*

      I get the weird rage though. My weird thing is if I’m ever helping someone and they do the copy/past thing from the top menu rather than just do CTL-C and CTL-V. YOU’RE WASTING TIME! QUIT DOING THAT!

      So I get the inclination to disable it but also recognize that it would be bad.

      1. CoveredInBees*

        When setting up my work computer for the first time, the IT person seemed ready to hug me because I used CTL-C/V and tabbed between boxes in a form. I’m pretty sure I never touched the mouse more than twice during setup because it was simply easier for me to use the keyboard. They were always quick to help me out with things because they knew that if I said something was broken, it wasn’t likely a user error.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I just don’t watch when people are doing things like that on the computer that drive me crazy. Like if I have to sit with someone while they browse through a form or whatever, and they sloooowly creep the mouse up and hover over one of the selections for what seems like three full minutes, and then they finally click to produce the dropdown menu, and then they slooowly browse the choices . . .

        I just look away. I look out the window, or think about my grocery list, or *anything* just to avoid the torture of watching them. Same when my kids used to have to take timed multiplication exercises at home. I couldn’t stand to turn the timer on and watch them sit there looking at the ceiling, pulling on the pencil eraser, etc. I would turn the timer on and leave the room and come back later to check if they’d solved the recommended number of problems.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Trying to analyze why it bothers me: I don’t think it’s because I care whether other people are efficient or not. I think I get frustrated when I’ve already looked several steps ahead of where they are, and I have to wait for them to catch up. Like, I already see that one should click here, pull down this menu, choose this option . . . and they’re still painstakingly figuring it out. It’s like being stuck behind someone driving 10 mph in a 50 mph zone.

          1. Jan*

            Yes. That’s it for me too.

            I’m a rather impatient person and seeing someone slog through something that could easily take me seconds to do is just infuriating for me. I also have to look away.

            I also get impatient with slow walkers and slow drivers so I think this is a slowness/impatience thing for me.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            This type of stuff bothers me if I am overtired or if I am super pressed for time or if I am not sure of what I am doing with my own work. Yep, I stare out the window or I think of all the times people had to wait for me to read through something. If I am keeping track of seconds or even a few minutes I have to ask myself “What is going on with ME?”
            But it can be painful to watch others struggle. I had one job where cohort and I joked the way to get the stronger people to help us move something was to make sure that we were in their line of sight when we tried to move Heavy Thing. The stronger people came over with predictable regularity.

      3. LiveAndLetDie*

        I understand the weird rage, but I also understand that it’s not MY workflow that’s happening when I watch someone do that stuff–it’s theirs. I’ve got a relatively new peer at work who copy-pastes by right-clicking and selecting ‘copy’ and ‘paste’ from the menu, whereas I’m a keyboard-shortcuts kind of person. But he’s pretty quick about it, and if it makes a difference in speed of work output, it’s negligible. It’s just a difference of how we do things.

  14. Former Computer Professional*

    Oh, goodness, #3 isn’t just a problem for tracking. Some porn (and other) sites still can transmit viruses.

    A bit ago I picked up a contract to de-virus someone’s laptop. It turned out that I couldn’t help them. It was this person’s work laptop. Like #3, they’d been traveling for their job and “just looked at a few sites.” His laptop became infected with viruses. The big problem was that his employer’s IT department had locked down all administrative functions. Because of the way modern viruses get deep into the system, there was no way to fully remove all the viruses without re-installing it, which would have been noticed by the IT department immediately.

    The customer was in tears, sure they were going to be fired. I didn’t find out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. Always be very, very careful about what you do with a work-owned computer.

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*


      Porn sites are notorious for being riddled with all kinds of malware.

      If you wreck your own device? Shit happens.

      Your company device? Could be a huge problem, especially if you have access to confidential data.

    2. so anon*

      Viruses were my first thought as well. My company was hit by the last big wave of ransomware (NotPetya) and trust me, you do not want to see that happening (or, especially, be responsible for it happening) to yours.

    3. nnn*

      Esprit d’escalier, but my first thought in this situation is to wonder if they’d get in less trouble for “accidentally” damaging the laptop to the point where the hard drive is unreadable than for getting a porn virus. A spilled cup of coffee? A mischievous child with a new magnetic toy?

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Where I work, you would absolutely get in less trouble for accidental damage to a computer (says the girl who accidentally tipped an entire beverage into her laptop on a flight once). That’s an accident; downloading malware-laden porn is not an accident, unnecessary for business, and, at minimum, putting inappropriate materials onto a work computer. Plus, a lot of malware doesn’t just infect the computer it’s on, it’s designed to spread to the network and other machines. We can replace one machine; locking down the entire network to quarantine something is going to spell trouble for somebody.

        I will also say, as someone who facilitates reviews other people’s computer files for relevance to litigation matters, you also may not know what your employer’s backup policy is and whether or not what you delete of your computer is actually gone. A number of employers use journaling software to maintain a full copy of all emails sent/received for compliance/record retention purposes. I had a doc review lead tell me that, just once, they’d like to run a document review that did not involve having an “adult content” tag in the review form.

        One place I worked ended up having to turn a work machine over to the FBI once because the porn in question involved underage parties. That was ugly.

    4. Artemesia*

      I am betting that he accidentally backed his car over it and broke the hard disk (after first hammering it). An odd accident where it slipped out of the back seat of the car when the car came open when he was backing up.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Took it down a dirt road and lit it on fire . . . *

        Oh, wait, it’s supposed to be an ‘accident’. Never mind.

        *Remember the commenter who took a stack of problematic work papers down a dirt road and lit them on fire?

    5. Paul*


      We have a policy that there’s *no* porn on work provided equipment, even off the clock and it’s partly due to that. Porn and online gambling sites = sketchy as hell dens of malware.

      1. Gadfly*

        First step for fraud–waive bait….. Make it something they will cut corners to get. Be it porn or a prize. Greed gets people.

        1. Starwatcher*

          Remember mp3 sharing sites? I once had a colleague complain bitterly about malware on their home computer, and recommended some solutions, only to find out that they *had* a firewall – but they’d turned it off because it kept blocking their access to filesharing (and porn)!

    6. Jenny*

      My job occasionally has the potential to require some nasty material. If you have to actually access illicit or dangerous sites they actually have special computers to use just for those purposes with extra safety (they are not for personal use, you have to.document where you went and why).

  15. Magenta Sky*

    OP1: How efficient – nor not – a particular employee is, is the business of that employees supervisor, and any training staff the company has. It is not the job of a coworker (intern or otherwise) to worry about it. If her inefficiency is negatively affecting *your* work, talk to your, or her (if different) supervisor. And don’t say “Jane needs to stop using the CAPS LOCK key.” Say “Jane’s slowness is keeping me from doing my job as well as I could.” But addressing any inefficiency in work flow is someone else’s job. And if you’re doing someone else’s job, you’re not doing *your* job.

    OP 3: It pro here. I can think of two circumstances in which porn on a company computer is acceptable. The first is when it’s the boss’s computer, and he does not answer to anybody else. His company, his computer, his right to do stupid (and potentially illegal, considering harassment laws) things on it. The other – and I’ve done this – is when IT is documenting an employee doing something like what you propose, and has to actually visit a site to confirm what it is because the domain name isn’t obvious.

    Other than that, yeah, take your own tablet. They can be had for under $100. There’s no other way you can possibly hope to guarantee that no other employee will ever see what’s on your company laptop.

    1. Transformer*

      What if it’s your own iPhone connected to the company email and apps? Can they look at your browsing history on your personally owned cell phone? Always have been curious about job searching on my cell or if I need to uses completely separate device.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This depends on whether it’s BYOD and on whether your company helps offset your phone bill. But regardless of those factors, in most states, an employer can look at your personal cell phone’s browsing history and the history/data on any app you use for company purposes. There was a post recently about BYOD policies and privacy issues. Let me see if I can find the link.

        1. Gaia*

          Uh…wait what? I don’t use company apps on my phone because I don’t want to but let me get this straight.

          Let’s say I use an Outlook app to access company email. Are you telling me this gives my company the right to view ANYTHING I’ve done on my phone? Because I accessed company email on it!? That seems outrageous.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            So the answer is technically no, with the caveat that there are so many exceptions (on a state by state level and under whatever BYOD policy your employer has) that functionally the answer is “yes-ish.

            In most states, an employer can search the activity from apps you use to access company stuff. So in your example, that would be the Outlook app and its cache.

            But let’s say you access Outlook via Web on your phone (or your company’s server/intranet), instead. Then an employer will often be able to search your browser activity, as well. And they can search the cache for the browser, as well as any data you’ve downloaded from apps/programs that you’ve also used to access company stuff (b/c of concerns re: theft and corporate espionage). Some states, like California, are more protective of your privacy, but many are not. The links I provided do a much better job of explaining the common risks/protections for BYOD.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            There is also the issue of having your device collected if your company is involved in a litigation for an issue for which you’re a an important player. BYOD and employer policies kind of go out the window; if you’re the only source of relevant information, your phone is probably going to be collected, at least for preservation purposes.

            The problem with mobile devices is that it’s nearly impossible to forensically collect/inspect just part of them. This is particularly true of text messages, which are all stored in one little database on the phone. This is why I don’t text with coworkers – if my texts end up having to be collected, there is no way to avoid having my texts with friend and family come with them. When they are extracted/reviewed/ produced to another party, the personal ones could be stripped, but they’d still be collected/held until the destruction order is issued for the matter.

      2. Magenta Sky*

        I suspect it depends entirely on the use policy you agreed to when they let you connect to their network. And if HR and IT are at all competent, it’s prohibited. As many have noted, porn sites are hotbeds of malware, and a lot of malware is specifically designed to steal business secrets. That’s how you get emails sent to the controller, apparently from the boss, telling them to wire large amounts of cash to foreign countries.

    2. Clewgarnet*

      I used to work for an educational software provider, and one of their products was to block porn sites.

      There were two employees whose sole job was to spend all day attempting to view porn.

      Needless to say, their computers were in their own little DMZ!

      1. Bagpuss*

        My job used to involve dealing with court cases where social services were involved in families and children were potentially being taken into care.

        I recall having an interesting conversation with IT after my usage apparently flagged some questionable sites… I’d been researching expert witnesses and independent special workers in relation to assessing and working with sex offenders.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ugh, I had to have this convo with IT! I had a case involving Playboy and had to figure out if the plaintiff sued the right entity (Playboy is, of course, multiple companies). I didn’t need much time on their sites, but one of their corporate addresses reverted back to the main magazine site.

          I had to call and notify not only our IT division, but D.C. (headquarters) as well. That was not fun.

      2. CoveredInBees*

        It is also not uncommon for IT recruiting because a lot of the cutting edge stuff , especially around page speed and stability, has been led by porn sites. A recruiter or interviewer will want to go in and check out the code and maybe speed test the sites. They also use very specific (and unconnected to anything else) machines for that process.

      3. Lynn Whitehat*

        I work in software security. My job sometimes takes me to really shady Internet neighborhoods.

    3. kitryan*

      For a possible third circumstance, part of my job is to run google searches on potential clients and employees (and a few other kinds of searches). I don’t think I could safe search or not look at a site with questionable material if it was a potential match to the party I was searching, as part of my mandate is to find anything that might damage the company’s reputation via association and to bring it to my boss’s attention.
      So if the person’s twitter was full of hate speech or porn, I’d have to PDF it and send it to my boss – which has thankfully never happened. I have, however, very occasionally stumbled upon questionable material that turned out to not be related to the party I was looking up but had the same or a very similar name. I look long enough to make the determination and then get out as quickly as possible.

  16. Tau*

    Sorry, OP1, I’m with everyone else – you seriously overstepped.

    In addition to what everyone else has mentioned, I’d suggest you rethink your definition of “most efficient”. Like it or not, this is how your coworker is used to working. It’s the most efficient workflow for her because it’s the one she’s familiar with and used to. Using the shift key instead of caps lock will be unfamiliar, and rejigging her typing patterns to do it reflexively will take time and effort which she may not want to or be able to spare. The conflict of old and new typing patterns might leave her typing patterns confused for a very long time. Never to mention e.g. possible coordination issues that might make it genuinely easier for her to hit one key at a time instead of two at the same time, or other things that’d make Caps the best option for her.

    The thing I am trying to get at here is that people are different, and what works for someone may not work for someone else, and the theoretically most “optimal” approach may not be the most optimal in practice… and all of that means that forcing your idea of what would be the best way to work onto someone else is wrong. Next time, OP1, mention it (briefly and casually), and if they’re not receptive let it go.

  17. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 In answer to your question: if it’s a device provided by your company you are never, ever off the clock.

  18. Daria Grace*

    OP3, Those kinds of sites have a reputation for spreading viruses, malware and other digital nasties. You do not want to be the person who becomes known for having damaged company databases or opening the company up to hackers that way.

  19. Kathlynn*

    Op3, other posters have raised very good and serious concerns. I’d like to make one more, if it is found that you are looking at porn, do you really want them knowing the type of porn you watch, because that information will be saved as well as any search terms you have used.

  20. Fake Eleanor*

    OP #1: Sorry that your attempt to be helpful went that badly, but one thing to keep in mind: Forcing someone to accept your help is not actually helpful, no matter what you intended. I also wonder if some of the severity of the response was because your coworker perceived this as a prank, rather than an attempt to help.
    One takeaway: You say you “didn’t understand” why she’d type that way. If it’s that interesting to you, why not just ask her? And listen to her response, and not leap immediately to “there’s a better way to do that.” There may indeed be a better way to do that. Her way may be a simple quirk, or there may be some significant reason, or maybe she’s never thought about it before.
    Regardless, you didn’t really understand why, and you didn’t have explicit permission to try and improve someone’s life. In that circumstance, it’s not your place to try and trick them into being a more efficient person.
    Sorry it turned out that, in this case, it was a fireable offense.

    1. Leavepeoplealone*

      I hate consent violations. I don’t care if it’s how I type, what I eat, or who I let in my bed.

      LW received a “no” loud and clear and barged through it.

      1. AJHall*

        Worse, stealthily made it impossible for LW’s co-worker not to follow the advice which had already been rejected. It’s something which can’t really be tolerated, and if LW can’t understand why, no wonder they got fired.

      2. Oranges*

        THIS. This is what bugs me most about #1. Ignoring other people’s ‘no’ in a collaboration = Not Okay. Ignoring other people’s ‘no’ which in NO WAY impacts you == what even?

        Going so far to ignore the other person’s ‘no’ by messing with their computer. To me firing you isn’t about what you did. It was about how much outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior you went (policing typing) and then DOUBLED DOWN on it (messing with computer). And then doubled down on your doubling down on the double down(HR). Quadrupled down?

    2. always in email jail*

      I agree that this is certainly a better approach than the one taken by OP, but I would also be very, very irked if I was asked to explain my typing habits in detail and give background on them. That is not an intern or coworker’s business.

      1. Fake Eleanor*

        To be clear I don’t think it’s something that should be hashed out indefinitely. But if you notice the quirk and think it’s worth mentioning, have the short conversation, listen to the answers, and then let that be enough. You’re not being presented with a problem to solve.

      2. mdv*

        I was imagining this convo as:
        Me: Oh, how interesting that you use caps lock that way, I’ve never seen that before.
        Coworker: Blah blah blah
        Me: Fascinating! Whatever works for you!

        Not really demanding an explanation, just expressing interest… But maybe that would also be annoying. It really depends on the context, doesn’t it?

  21. Anonymous Educator*

    Like OP #1, I’m used to using the Shift key instead of Caps Lock, but you could actually argue that it’s better to use Caps Lock, because you don’t have to hold down a key while pressing another key. There’s a lot of physical coordination that needs to happen then—hold down shift key, keep it held, press key you want in caps, let go of that key, let go of shift key. If you let go of the shift key too soon, it might not work. I’ve had that happen. I’m not going to retrain myself to use the Caps Lock key, though.

    But, yeah, as others have mentioned, you can’t sneakily change someone’s tools to disable something you find personally “less efficient.” If I went to work tomorrow to find my co-worker had changed my keyboard from QWERTY to Dvorak without my permission, I’d be pretty pissed.

    1. Izzy*

      I wondered at first myself, then I remembered when I first learned to type. On a manual typewriter. The keys on a manual are not just electronic switches; they do actual work. The shift key holds up part of the machine, so that the upper case letter hits the ribbon. That was hard to do with the left pinky – my weakest finger – so I used to use Caps Lock when my pinky got tired. I guess I stopped doing that around the same time I learned not to reach for the carriage return at the end of each line. Unlearning the carriage return habit slowed down my workflow for a little while.

      1. sam*

        For those who *might* be interested (and who don’t already know!), on most computers these days, there’s an accessibility feature that you can turn on that makes your regular shift key a “sticky” key (it’s actually called “sticky keys” on windows computers). What it does is whenever you push the shift (or control, or alt) button, the computer continues to read them as “pressed” until you hit another key. it’s designed precisely for people who have trouble pressing two buttons at once. It automatically releases once you hit the second key, so you don’t have to do that second press to turn it off like you do if you’re using the caplocks key.

        Just a little tip. But obviously NO PRESSURE to change whatever workflow habit may work best for you. I sometimes use this feature when my hands get a little…creaky…but I didn’t even know it existed until I accidentally turned it on one day (which you can do by holding down the shift button for an extended period of time).

        Oh and Izzy – I was the very last year in my school system to be taught to type on those old IBM selectrics before the school moved the class to computers. It was a WORKOUT to type on one of those things!

        1. teclatrans*

          Ooh, thanks for the tip. There are days when this will be useful.

          And man, I do not miss lifting the whole carriage with my pinky.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Remington manuals were baaaddd, before that came the Underwoods. I have an Underwood with glass top keys here. Do. not. miss. it. At all. I am not sure why we did not break our fingers on those keys.
          If you did not have erasable paper and you made one mistake then you had to retype the whole page. I would still be in grammar school typing papers if they did not have erasable paper.

  22. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: I don’t think firing you was an overstep at all. Not only is her caps lock habit totally not the weirdest thing you’ll encounter in an office setting, I have to wonder why you were so dead-set on controlling her. It doesn’t matter that the action itself seems small when you say it out loud. You secretly altered someone else’s work equipment in order to force her to do things your way. That’s not okay or forgivable. You can’t go into other people’s computers without permission and change stuff you don’t like. You can’t act like you know better about things that are none of your business. The company is going to wonder if you would go through their HR or payroll files and change stuff when no one’s looking. That’s why they reacted the way they did. You established yourself as someone who doesn’t take a superior’s answer as the final word. You showed them that, no matter what anyone else says, you’re going to go ahead and do what you want anyway, even if it means violating other people’s privacy and using computers that you are not authorized to use, in ways that are not above-board. If you thought someone was using a computer too much, would you go in and change the password?

    Sorry, I’ll stop now. But I think that if this is pinging such a serious bell for me, it’s worth considering that your company felt the same way.

    1. Liz*

      This. I don’t know if the other points people made are as clear as tjey need to be for the OP.

      This is much clearer, you were told x and decided y was better anyway and tried to force or impose y on your supervisor.

      You signaled you are not going to listen to a supervisor when you don’t want to.

      This might be one of the hardest soft skills to teach. Good parents and teachers want bright students challenging their methods and ideas in a discussion (not by secretly trying to force things), the discussion is a way to reach, for students to try, and be pushed to see other sides etc.

      But at work this kind of discussion is not the same. You can ask about x, but if you are told no, we do y. That is it, end of conversation. Anything else is pushy and seems like you want to impose your way on bosses.

      For 16 years students are learning to push, now at work, they have to shift that. What feels like a conversation to a bright student is now seen as arrogant and pushy. It can be a difficult transition.

      1. Observer*

        Good parents and teachers want bright students challenging their methods and ideas in a discussion (not by secretly trying to force things), the discussion is a way to reach, for students to try, and be pushed to see other sides etc.

        Actually, no. Good parents want their children to learn when to push and when to accept authority. Because if you don’t you either wind up like the OP, or you wind up a doormat or someone who never takes initiative. Neither is good.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I agree with bringing more nuance to it.

          Also, one thing to keep in mind discussing authoritarian parenting is it tends to be common in communities where the adults don’t have a lot of opportunities to push back against authority and have that rewarded–they are teaching their kids how to keep a job, or how to not be shot for being insufficiently deferent. That can be “good” parenting.

        2. Artemesia*

          I agree nuance is key. People need to have judgment about when to push and when to not. When my daughter correctly pronounced W.E.B . Dubois in her literature class in college and the instructor correct her ‘it is du bwah’, she unlike her mother had the good sense to hold her tongue. You have to know when to hold them and when to fold them.

    2. Leavepeoplealone*

      LW 1 ne do to watch the tea and consent video.

      They received “no” as answer. They refused to listen

  23. Fire*

    With #1, I’d push back strongly on the idea that using the shift key is inherently more efficient than using the capslock key. I normally use the capslock key, and my WPM is around 80-90. I recently got a Chromebook which doesn’t use the caps lock key normally (it brings up a search bar unless you do alt + that key) so you have to use shift, and still have and use my regular laptop. Once I make the mental adjustment either way (getting used to using shift on the Chromebook or going back to using capslock on the laptop), I’ve noticed zero difference with my typing speed.

    All that aside, you said yourself she’s a quick and efficient typist. So what on earth is the problem? She already types fast. Her typing speed is clearly not impacting her work, and if it was it wouldn’t be your business. Unless you’re in an industry where sacrificing like 5 WPM is going to cost you your job (because, again, we’re talking about an already quick and efficient typist), why does she need to type at her ultimate most efficient speed? What’s actually being lost here, and why is it so significant you’d tamper with someone else’s computer to fix it?

      1. Fire*

        So… I switched the search key over to capslock, and it actually doesn’t register fast enough for me to use as capslock. I do the normal quick press capslock press key press capslock and it doesn’t register the capslock as being pressed until long after I’m already past the letter I want capitalized… and sometimes doesn’t capitalize a letter at all because there’s no delay for turning it OFF. Womp womp.

  24. GermanGirl*

    OP 1, you wrote that “she does type fast and efficiently” so there was no problem for you to fix in the first place.

    Also, changing how she types may distract her enough that she’ll make more mistakes and thus be less efficient for a while – which might easily offset any small speed gains later on.

    All that said, you were right to point it out to her but wrong to follow up on it after she considered it and said no.

    And messing with other people’s computers is a serious boundary violation, for which employees would get written up in many places, but for interns it’s usually easier to just let them go.

    There are some places in some industries (think IT security) where people will do something harmless like open a text editor and writing “Hey, you should really lock your computer when you leave your desk! The shortcut is Windows+L”. But I’d recommend getting a good read on the culture before doing anything like that.

    1. Tau*

      Also, changing how she types may distract her enough that she’ll make more mistakes and thus be less efficient for a while – which might easily offset any small speed gains later on.

      This. I’m experimenting with teaching myself to use a German keyboard layout instead of a British one, because when I’m typing in German it’s awkward to constantly have to switch layouts or use some weird shortcut (different on every computer I’ve had) for the umlauts and the ß. The end result is that my typing accuracy has gone down on every layout and that I’m suddenlz extremelz prone to messing up mz zs and ys. I’m sure that objectively speaking it’s more efficient to use a German keyboard layout when typing German*, but from my starting point as an extremely fast touch-typer on a quite different layout I’m not sure it’s going to be worth it.

      * except for e-mail addresses because why would you put the @ sign there…

      1. xyz*

        You’ll get used to it. Even though I type English most of the time, I switched to a French layout for the same reasons (even if it’s only 10% of the time, it’s enough of a hassle to find the éèàüïîôùç etc. that it’s worth it). Now I make mistakes if I ever have to use a QWERTY.

        1. Project Manager*

          Alternative option: Memorize the alt codes for the letters you want. E.g., alt+0233 types an é. It’s definitely slower than having an actual key for the character in question but way faster than copy-paste or digging up the character map.

          1. Project Manager*

            (The alt codes don’t work on all computers, though – there was definitely a time you couldn’t do them on Macs (maybe different now?), and I used to have a laptop that would never accept these inputs. Man, did that ever throw off my typing workflow.)

            1. Sarianna*

              The key combos are different on Macs–generally option+[combo key–e for accent aigu, i for accent grave, i for accent circonflexe], then the vowel you want to put the accent on; or even just option-c for cédille–but much like alt codes, once you learn what the pattern is, it becomes a habit and a better place to find the rest of them. Like, I studied Spanish much longer, and while I know alt-0233 is é, and 023x is probably another e with some accent, I don’t know all the other ones. but I can figure it out.

            2. Searching*

              I loved the day I found out that on my (US) Mac, if I just hold the letter key for a second, up pops a little menu with accented letters & corresponding numbers below them. Then I press the number for the accent I need. For example, I hold down the letter e for a second, then press the number 4, and voilà, the ë appears. No more “option u” then “e” for me, because I could never remember all those combos.

              I still had to memorize the Shift+Option+2 for € and Shift+Option+8 for °, because I don’t think there are similar “press & hold” functions for those.

            3. nonegiven*

              On my keyboard, the alt codes only work with the 10 keypad and not with the numbers above the letters. That is probably why it wouldn’t work on a laptop

        2. Anonygoose*

          French keyboards always throw me way off, not with the letter placement, but with the question marks and the @ symbol. Everything else I could get used to pretty quickly, but I never can instinctively type a question properly, even after months. I have both the Alt codes and the Mac codes fairly well memorised for french, though, and definitely type faster just using those (Mac codes are actually fast than the Alt codes! Part of the reason I got a Mac for uni during my french degree).

        3. Talvi*

          The Canadian French keyboard keeps the QWERTY layout while also giving easy access to the accents. (There are two Canadian French layouts, and while one of them us very annoying to use, the otheris ALMOST identical to the Rnglish keyboard.) I never use the French AZERTY keyboard if I can avoid it.

      2. Jenny*

        I tried switching to an ergonomic keyboard and couldn’t deal with it at all and it still has the same layout. It actually made my wrist tendinitis flare up which it was supposed to prevent.

        1. Merida Ann*

          I use the “wrong” hand to type the letter “y” on my keyboard. It doesn’t slow me down in the slightest, because it’s the natural way that I type. When I started my last job, I was assigned to a computer with an ergonomic keyboard that split the letters down the middle based on which hand you were “supposed” to use, so I kept hitting the solid space between the two sections when I tried to type “y”. A keyboard intended to force me to use the most efficient method slowed me down so much! Luckily, someone else in the office had a normal keyboard and wanted the ergonomic one, so we were just able to trade. Thank goodness. I can’t imagine someone seeing that I use my left hand for “y” and secretly switching me back to that ergonomic keyboard and thinking that would be an improvement.

      3. Emi.*

        OH MY GOSH THE @ THING KILLS ME. I never remember where it is, ever, and usually end up copypasting it from somewhere else, or switching back to USA.

      4. mdv*

        I have both (american) English and German keyboards set up on all my computers, and I bought keyboard labels for my personal machine, so I’d have a visual cue to work with … eventually I’ve been able to type in both English und auf Deutsch ohne Probleme, und ohne zu gucken.

  25. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I also have a dog with separation anxiety who could not be in doggie daycare. I bring up the “have to leave precisely at [X time]” after the offer is made, and so far it hasn’t been a problem. But even in jobs that say they’re ok with you leaving, you may have to massage the optics a little bit.

    I started a new job and had been very clear about why I needed to leave consistently at a specific time. But I also worked remotely in the evenings after my dog set in for the night. At a practical level, I came in way before my boss and sometimes left 20 minutes before him, and then worked 1-2 hours remote. He was kind of old school, and he was pretty shocked that I wasn’t “putting in hours” (i.e., face time) early into the job, even though I was working the same hours, if not more, than my colleagues. I could tell he thought I was slacking, but he was super indirect about communication, which made it hard to raise issues with him directly without him deflecting.

    So I did a few things. I “reminded” him that I was leaving at X:30 but working remotely in the evenings. I emphasized that my productivity/output was on time and high quality. I also had to get in the habit of sending my boss emails during remote-time so he could “see” that I was working. I also let my coworkers know that I was accessible again in the evenings, and I said it a few times out loud when he was walking by.

    Those tactics might not be helpful, but I think it’s important to know that even after an employer says “yes, of course!” to your schedule needs, sometimes there’s still implicit pushback.

    1. Doggy Anxiety*

      Thank you so much, this is really helpful, particularly about working remotely and emphasizing this fact!

      1. Graciosa*

        I think another key point here is that you’re still earning some credibility when you first start in a new job. No one knows yet who you are, and I would urge you to be thoughtful about what you share while you’re developing new relationships.

        I have fairly senior employees who sometimes manage business trips according to pet care arrangements. It isn’t a problem, as they are already established as hard workers who contribute value to the company. At that point, the “Hey, we all have lives” element kicks in without any difficulty. If they have to go out of town week X instead of week Y, everyone knows that the work is still getting done.

        A new person on the job doesn’t have the same credibility. You probably don’t want to be that “new person who has an anxious dog who can’t be left alone” before you’re known as “the teapot designer who came up with the hit concept for cocoa spouts.” If you’re rearranging travel to accommodate your dog’s issues without some performance behind you, some people may perceive a bit of a question mark around your commitment to the job. I’m not saying this is fair – it’s just impression management, and it’s a bigger deal in the first few months on the job than it will be when you’re established.

        Just to be clear, I would give the same advice about a host of other areas (dress, arrival time, length of lunch breaks, etc.) where established workers don’t have to be nearly as careful as the new person on the job.

        Best wishes to you and your dog –

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          This is super true. You get a lot more flexibility once you have established some trust between you and your coworkers.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          The credibility factor is something we had to discuss with a new employee last year who got mad because one person on the team was allowed to telework and shift their schedule and they were not. The issue was that the existing employee had spent the past five years putting in time, building relationships/goodwill, and doing superb work — so when their personal life and health took a simultaneous nose dive, we were really liberally in allowing them to deal with that because we knew that even if they weren’t physically there, the work was getting done (and it was and getting done well). New employee tried to pull the same schedule/flex time/telework without the credibility and could not understand why that mattered. It continues to be a problem because now the people who deserve the flexibility feel like they can’t use it without this person accusing them of getting special favors (which we continue to address directly over and over).

          I would also say, though, working in a field where there is not a set schedule and someone leaving every single day at a specific time WOULD be a substantial problem, I would be pissed if someone didn’t bring that up until the offer stage. I talk at length in the interview about flexibility and hours demands (and why our industry is like that), and, if they didn’t say anything until we’d extended an offer, they’d not only not be hired, I would not consider a future application for a similar position. We have projects that you have to stay and finish in the evenings, but we are also candid about it from the first conversation so it’s not a surprise to the candidate.

      2. sam*

        One other thing worth checking on, and this may or may not be available, and may or may not be an option depending on how anxious your dog actually is, obviously, but…

        The doggy day care by me offers a variety of services, including a pick up/drop off service. I don’t know if yours does, but it might be worth looking into, if there’s a possibility that you may get stuck from time to time – the service can bring your dog home at the end of the day and they’d only be home for, like, an hour or two?

        (again, obviously this would only work if your dog could stay home for an hour or two, but if so, it might help in a pinch?)

        1. k.k*

          If the daycare doesn’t provide it, there are also some companies that provide pet transportation services, basically a dog taxi. I’ve seen dog walking companies that offer it. Of course this would be an added cost, but it might work if there are a few times you know in advance that you’ll stay late.

    2. Kathleen Adams*

      I think this is great advice no matter what your reason is for needing to have X reasonable time accommodation (to leave on time most days, to leave early one day a week, whatever).

      I have an extremely non-anxious indoor cat, so the dog situation clearly doesn’t affect me, but I have for several years needed a slightly (and I do mean “slightly”) unusual schedule. Most people here work 8-4:30, but I need to come in a little later, so my hours are 8:30-5. Such arrangements aren’t unheard of here, although they are a little unusual for my particular department. But 10 years or so, my then-boss let me adopt this schedule, which was great until he was fired. Then successor boss let me adopt this schedule, which was great until he, too, was fired. (We’ve had a LOT of turbulence around here the past few years.) Now new boss has let me adopt this schedule, too, but as the princess suggests, from time to time, I make sure to point out in several subtle ways that although I come in “late,” I leave late, too. So far, so good!

      And hopefully I won’t need to break in a new boss for a while. :-)

  26. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 I’m struck by the fact that money was a factor – you mention needing a higher salary. Will going back to your old job be worth the pay cut? Or is it worth seeking a third option?

    1. OP 5*

      I’ve considered this for sure. Money was a big factor in my leaving for sure but as it turned out paying for a larger set of (mandatory) benefits and their way-more-expensive pension plan meant that my take-home pay wasn’t a significant as I first thought. Yes it’s more, but not so much more that it’s a deal breaker in my decision to stay.

      1. Lora*

        Yeah, that’s happened to me too: big raise bumped me into a higher tax bracket so my take-home pay was only $20/paycheck more.

        You can definitely go back. That is totally a thing! In fact I had many colleagues and friends who were lured away to crappy companies by large raises and many promises (not kept), and as soon as it became clear that those promises were BS, and the sheer depth of horribleness that the job really was, they asked to come back and were welcomed with open arms. There are two local major companies in my field who are notorious for trying to hire good people with lots of money, who promptly go back to their old jobs rather than put up with shenanigans.

        It’s also a thing that people rotate amongst different companies because the companies only give out paltry not-even-cost-of-living raises for a LOT of effort and work, and you can get a real raise/promotion only by leaving. So they spend 2 years here, 3 years there, 5 years somewhere else, then go back to the original employer for lots more money. This is considered no harm no foul, although you’d think that senior management would be a little bit cannier about keeping trade secrets.

        Have had multiple jobs where they would happily take me back in an instant. It’s nice, quite apart from being a good defense against Impostor Syndrome or feeling down on myself when something isn’t going well, I feel like, “hey, I am good, I have options, these people can go eat a bag of salted rat guts”. Keeps things in perspective.

        1. Artemesia*

          That must have not been much of a raise then as the ‘new tax bracket’ only applies to money earned above the lower tax bracket i.e. at the margins — it doesn’t extend to the entire salary.

      2. 6013*

        If you are Susan in New Mexico, please try to go back to your old position. I replaced a Susan who I have heard has this sentiment, and the job is nothing like how it was described when I interviewed. You can have it back.

    2. Bostonian*

      I was thinking the same thing! OP, if the only “downside” of your previous position was the salary, then ask yourself if the salary is enough to live with so that you wouldn’t be looking for another position for at least another year or two. If your last company brings you back, you’re in bridge-burning territory if you leave again too soon.

      1. caligirl*

        Go back if you can! So many others, including me once upon a time, on this site have wanted to go back when the new job wasn’t working out and not likely to improve and weren’t able to. Go back and enjoy!

    3. Engineer Woman*

      You may be able to ask (usually doesn’t hurts to ask) if old job could pay you just a small increase. If they haven’t found a replacement for you, they could be especially willing to pay a bit more for someone they know does good work.

      I think going back / at least inquiring is not a problem at all. Many times a job sounds good but for a variety of factors (morphs into something else, management wasn’t sure on what skills are needed in the first place, just not gelling with management or colleagues through nobody’s fault) it’s not so great. Your reasons for leaving were acceptable and you left on good terms so I’d definitely bring it up to your old manager – Alison’s wording is great. If the can’t take you back, they can’t but I just don’t think it hurts to try.

      However as noted, if you do go back, you then really need to stay put awhile, otherwise this bridge is burned.

  27. Emmylou*

    Re OP1 — I remember being new to the workforce and getting my head all torqued out because my boss used a lower case L instead of a 1. I’m old enough that it was a habit she’d picked up pre-computer days, and I remember trying to explain to her that this was going to cause issues with spelling checks, etc. She just — rightly — looked at me and carried on.

    I think I remember trying to hard to add value when I was new and didn’t know what I was doing that I seized on small things to feel expert about. I imagine that’s what was happening with the OP. Best advice I have is to be quiet and look at what you can learn. That’s what being new is about. It took me a while to figure that out.

    Re OP4, I agree with Alison — I’m a pretty efficient email sender and when I am doing multiple emails, I often get muddled with names, dates etc. Alison’s language is perfect — “hi, it’s Alison, really looking forward to meeting… blah blah”

    1. 7337 16 Never Been Kissed*

      >She just — rightly — looked at me and carried on.
      There’s a difference between doing something right in a different way and doing it wrong. or 4r3 7ett3r5 4nd num83r5 in3rch4ng34bl3 1n l2l7?

      1. Not the best analogy, imho*

        Especially in USPS addresses for your mailroom. That cute little lowercase o instead of a zero you used in the database? Yeah, it invalidated that address and now your mailroom needs to fix it. Again. Why? Because that character encodes differently so that scamming barcode they paid for and printed is worthless.

        Shift vs caps? Not important.
        Character substitution? Very important.

        1. Not the best analogy, imho*

          Scanning. Not scamming. Lol, character substitution strikes again to destroy meaning!

      2. Observer*

        That’s not what the boss was doing, though. The lower case was commonly used instead of the number one for a looong time, and it didn’t look like “l33t speak.”

        And the address and zip code validation that NTBA mentions came way later. And, if that’s what you are dealing with, sure bring it up. If the boss were doing that in spreadsheets, that would have been something to bring up, as well. In fact that was my first thought. But, in standard text, it was just not a big deal for a very long time.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I had a boss who always wrote “could of” “should of” and “would of” in emails instead of “could have” etc. I swear my soul died a little each time, but I successfully managed to not correct her. Sigh.

    3. SignalLost*

      Yeah, I try to be really careful when I email new students so I have the correct email/name relationship in my head (I am very weird and have a GREAT memory for random strings of characters, which a lot of emails look like when you add @whatever to them), but I’ve done this due to copy/pasting. I think Alison’s language is perfect – write back and take that interview! Good luck!

  28. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 I think I would do what AAM says but with slightly less perkiness. The exclamation mark may be a bit much – after all you are drawing attention to someone else’s mistake here.

    I think I would start by suggesting times and then add a line saying: “I did just want to check this was intended for me as it was addressed to Jane – but assuming that’s the case, I look forward to hearing from you.”

    I don’t think I would open with flagging the name as the person might read your email feeling like they’ve been corrected. But I’m British and may be way off here…

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      Haha, I had the same thing re feeling too British about it! I’d just email something like “I look forward to meeting you on X” and that will flag it for them, if it was a mistake, in a lower key way. But again, cultural differences, right? (I occasionally have conversations with USA friends in the same field who see a response that in British is pretty damn snarky, but in USA-English reads as friendly and polite!)

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      While it’s not peak Britishness because you’re not apologising for not being called Jane, I have the impression that we are the only ones who would read so much into a correction upfront. After all, they got her name wrong or messed up the addressees somehow, so they should be corrected.

    3. SignalLost*

      I actually think Alison’s language is great, at least in the US – your change reads more to me as calling more attention to the error than would be correct in the US, unless the office is super formal. Alison’s phrasing strikes me as more “you made an oops anyone could” but yours seems a little more “I am concerned there is a genuine mistake here rather than an oops.” (Not trying to rag on you; I think your comments are of very high caliber. I just think this is a case where minimizing the error is a better move.)

    4. ancolie*

      Interesting! I’m an American and the two seem exactly opposite to me. Alison’s example sounds cheerfully breezy, to me, minimizing the (potential) problem and shifting over to the meat of the reply. Your example sounds more Serious Business to me, like you’re making sure we figure out whether or not this was meant for me or for Jane, because did you (who you’re replying to) see that you made that mistake?

  29. MariaE*

    #5, People absolutely go back to their old work! I’ve been in my current job for more than 10 years, and without even trying hard, I can think of at least 10 people who left to try something else, found that it didn’t work out, and returned. Some after a few weeks/months, others after a few years.

    1. OP 5*

      Thanks so much for your response. Did your opinion of those who came back change at all? Or did you notice a difference in how they were received? I guess I shouldn’t care about stuff like that but …

      1. esra (also a Canadian)*

        I went back to an old job once, and it really seemed like a lot of people were happy to have me back. There was no judgment or anything like that. I think a bit part of it is your attitude. If you feel awkward/act awkward vs if you act confident to be back, people pick up on that.

      2. Purplesaurus*

        I’ve seen a few people come back to my workplace, and while neither were treated any differently, they did not return to the exact work they did previously because duties were shifted around and/or positions filled in their absence. I think that’s the biggest difference for them.

      3. SignalLost*

        I worked at a place where someone was headhunted, left, then came back a few months later. I … felt that she very much exemplified the problems of that office (very cliqueish, not hugely proactive about change, etc), and she was an unenjoyable person to work with – one of those people who spends so much time complaining about how much work she has that you realize if she would complain less and work more she would be done with work. You, on the other hand, sound like someone people would welcome back. It sounds like you have a positive attitude and you worked hard during your notice period. Assuming you weren’t also stockpiling Brie and Camembert in a desk drawer, I can’t see why people would not be glad to see you back. Reach out to your manager ASAP, and good luck!

      4. LKW*

        I left a job on good terms for a new opportunity. That lasted a couple of years after which I was laid off. I took off some time and then was talking to a friend/ex-coworker who told me they were hiring again. A few months later, I was rehired. No one blinked. I think there were a few people who weren’t even aware I’d left (I keep a low profile). Any reaction was more a slap on the back and “hey! good to see you! I heard you were back!”
        The biggest challenge was that while I was gone, people who used to report to me had lapped me professionally and were now senior to me. I just treated them like any other person senior to me; I made choices that impacted my career trajectory.

      5. Kathleen Adams*

        I have two coworkers right now (and this on a staff that numbers about 50) who left and then came back. One took a new job, discovered that she’d just made a terrible mistake and came back only about 3 months later, while the other took a job on a congressional committee and came back several years later after the senator he worked for retired.

        In both cases, they were welcomed back with open arms, the first one because she’s just generally good at her job and easy to get along with, and the second because in addition to those two reasons, he now has all this great congressional experience, which helps us now, too.

        And actually my husband did the “took a new job that turned out to be a terrible mistake and got his old job back” thing many years ago. It turned out OK. His old job was not that great, honestly, but it was much better than the new job, so once he realized that the new job was a terrible mistake, he asked for and got his old job back and as a thanks for taking him back, he stayed there for 18 months or so before looking for a new job – a decent one, this time.

        So yes, definitely a thing.

      6. kitryan*

        I had a coworker (my team lead at the time) move to another company and she was unhappy there. My boss and I both would have been happy to have her return – we discussed it several times as a possible solution to a staffing issue. The only caveat that my boss had (because she’s awesome) was that I would definitely not have a reduction in my title/responsibilities if coworker returned, as I’d assumed a number of her duties, and we would be more like equals if she chose to come back. I don’t think anyone would have had an issue with trying to leave for what seemed like a good opportunity that turned out to be full of (metaphorical) bees.
        Unfortunately, she did not choose to return, as the commute was still too long (the reason she had left originally).
        You can frame it as original workplace spoiling you for any place else- it is flattering to your coworkers and workplace that you wanted to come back!

      7. Bea*

        I had to go back once in my transition out of my previous decades old job. It was a week after I accepted another job and the new job was incredibly stressful (long story short, the owner/boss was …difficult and horrible). So I sent an email to my old boss at 2AM saying I was going to come back because it was not going to work out. She was delighted and everyone else was like “LOL you’ll never leave, that’s okay though.” They got to hear the entire story needless to say, they were glad I escaped unharmed.

        It really depends on your coworkers. You left because you thought the opportunity was a great one and you shouldn’t pass it up. You weren’t actively looking and like “Argh I hate it here, argh I have to leave.” only to return.

        The only time I’ve ever judged someone for coming back (and I’ve seen plenty of returns, I live in a world where a lot of people rotate back into the work we do) is when they bad mouth and act a mess before leaving. Then it’s like “oh, I see we’re not that bad after all…can you leave again, please?”

      8. MariaE*

        OP, not even a little bit :-) My opinion went from a completely neutral, “Oh, s/he’s back – cool” to “YESSSSSS!!! S/He’s back!!!!” I never had a negative thought about anybody who returned… nor did I notice one from anybody else.

    2. hermit crab*

      Lots of people have left and come back at my company too. One of them is now the CEO!

    3. Gandalf the Nude*

      Sometimes it seems half our workforce is rehires. People–especially good people– are often welcomed back to their old jobs. Hell, my former boss, who I haven’t worked for in 4 years, tried to recruit me back just last week.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      My current employer is also gracious with one return (at the same position, people can also leave, switch jobs and come back) former employees that did really good work. Why would I go through a recruiting process again when I have a known quantity who already knows many of the organizational systems and requires less training? My biggest question is why someone wants to return and what type of tenure I can expect from them. I don’t want to be a way station for someone trying to find themselves, but I have no problem welcoming back people who found out the grass wasn’t greener and want to return.

      I also took advantage of this once, and, when I was returning, one of the interviewers declined to interview and simply wrote on the interview form for HR, “Would be stupid not to hire [NAM!] back, recommend offer. ASAP.”

    5. YNWA*

      I’m (hopefully) about to do this. I left my previous employer 9 months ago (after being there a very long time), but my new position didn’t work out (not a good fit etc). I emailed my old boss to let him know I was looking for a new job and asked him to be a reference. He called me and asked if I’d be interested in coming back. Yes I would. He’s flying into town tomorrow to meet with me and discuss a new position. My old (manager) position was filled by my previous supervisor….so I must have been doing something right there!
      Contact your old boss and at least have a chat about it. The worst they can say is no!

  30. Some sort of Management Consultant*

    A question related to #3:
    Same Apple ID on both work and personal devices.

    We have iPhones provided to us by the company that are explicitly for both our professional and personal use. We can of course choose to keep two phones but 90% just use the personal one.

    They have free calls and texts worldwide and a lot of data.

    The policy specifies that we have to use our own Apple IDs (but there’s nothing stopping us from making a specific work login I guess )

    My Apple ID is connected to both my personal iPad and laptop. I don’t use mobile data on them, just my home wifi.

    I do view adult sites on my personal devices. (Fanfics mostly but not exclusively)

    A-ok or should I stop?

    1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

      *90% just use the company phone as their personal device.

      1. Violet Fox*

        What sort of access does your company have to your devices? Do they use a device enrolment plan (DEP) that gives them any sort of remote access, if so you should check the IT policieis to see exactly what sort of access they have and what they plan on doing or not doing with your device, as well as what they can do.

        From a privacy standpoint, especially in places like the US without strong legal privacy protections, I would generally recommend havinvg a separate iCloud, etc account for work even though that means, for good and bad, things like keychain, music, App Store and whatnot are not shared across accounts. That being said, I actually do use my personal iCloud for everything work and home, but that my devices being for my personal use as well is part of my compensation package, no DEP, I live in a country with strong privacy laws that I have to know well because of my job, and I am the IT staff.

        The reason they have you use your own iCloud account for it is that there are not really any other options, asside from no iCloud/Apple account.

        1. Violet Fox*

          Just to add in the general case that getting to know your company’s IT policies is a very good idea.

        2. Some sort of Management Consultant*

          I’m Scandinavian so the laws protecting me are certainly stronger than American ones. I have read the mobile policy several times but can’t recall right now exactly what it said about what can and can’t be accessed. Will reread asap though.

          I assume they have access to everything – it would make the most sense.

          IT always asks us for access when they’re helping us remotely but that might just be politeness.

          1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

            Read it again just now.

            It was surprisingly unspecific.

            It says that the company can monitor all use (that I knew and expected ) and that improper use can be punished. They specifically mention unnecessarily high data use as something that would be improper.

            It also specified how I should use the phone abroad and that it is primarily a work tool but permissible for personal use.
            And that I should always use a screen protector…

            But nothing about stuff I wasn’t allowed to do.
            Not sure if it’s implied or if it’s been missed.
            I’ll have a hunt for the global policy (this was the regional one) and see if it covers something.

            1. Cassandra*

              That strikes me as fairly scary, for what it’s worth. Their lack of specificity means they can decide on an ad-hoc basis that something you’re doing is wrong.

              I like Alison’s advice: get a separate gadget with a separate data plan.

              1. Violet Fox*

                In much of Scandinavia, unless you are doing something like corporate espionage, very badly handling the security of work products, or violating other people’s privacy, some of the worst that you might get in a lot of cases is a stern talking to.

                It’s a bet less usual for people here who have work phones to have a separate one as well, but there are fairly common ways to bake the whole “for personal use as well” as part of one’s compensation package.

                Some of this also depends if the place has a separate data protection and security policy (my work place does, but fortunately we have mostly used it to thump users over the head who ask for dropbox on their work computers, rather then have to tell backup and restore to destory drives and tapes because someone accidentally emailed a birth number or something worse).

                1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

                  Heh, I’m not sure whereabouts you’re from but I’m Swedish and a high government official was fired and fined (very unusual!) after inadvertently giving heaps of highly confidential information both about private citizens but also about govt stuff to a consultancy who ended up subcontracting the work and the data to Eastern Europe…

                  The official went through with the deal even when intelligence agency forbade it, which is why they ended up in such trouble.

                  And all that happened to her was that she was fired and fined $7000.

                  That doesn’t mean I don’t that my own privacy seriously but it’s just not the same here as it is in the US.

            2. Graciosa*

              I too would regard this as fairly scary.

              That combination – “monitor all use” with “primarily a work tool” but “permissible for personal use” is pretty standard for large companies that reserve the right to look at *everything* and decide some personal use is unacceptable. For example, it may be acceptable to visit LinkedIn X frequently – but not 3X frequently – or not at all when you’re already in trouble.

              If an investigation is started – which may not be personally targeted against you, by the way, but everyone who deals with some topic / project / customer / has a specified access – it is normal to monitor *everything.* We have disclosures and consents embedded in login screens in addition to policies so people can’t say they were not informed (assuming they are the rare creature who actually reads them).

              I do read them, and I don’t do *anything* on a company computer I wouldn’t want broadcast to my entire chain of command. I carry my own phone (and my own tablet when traveling) because it’s just not worth the risk.

              – And I haven’t even started on the IP ownership issues. ;-)

            3. Violet Fox*

              I’m in the same region as you. Often the reason why things aren’t specific is because a lot of the privacy protections are a legal thing that does not need to be restated in such a document. The law is the law and that still applies. Your country’s data privacy bureau should have some good information on their website about what your basic protections are, including workplace surveillance and what they are allowed to do with that data.

              There is a very good chance that mostly what they want you to do is not burn through your data plan, not send work products to outside sources (including unapproved cloud services), and to not do anything super-illegal with the device.

              1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

                Oh how nice that you’re also from here! Thank you for your advice!

                I’m inclined to believe you – im not publishing selfrecorded porn using a company device after all, just reading naughty fics.

                I do know of people from my country being fired for watching porn on company computers during work hours but that’s the only cases I know of.

                I will do some more digging regardless and might end up getting a work Apple ID (or using the family sharing idea – very nifty!) just on principle.

                I don’t believe I’ll ever be in trouble but I don’t like granting unnecessary access if I don’t have to. And I have very firm ideas about what companies should and shouldn’t demand to know about their employees.

        3. blackcat*

          You could also set it up as a separate apple ID tied to a “family” set up. The “family sharing” system allows my husband to access my apps/music & books I have bought/etc (I don’t think you have to allow all of it–there are options) without sharing all data.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      “My Apple ID is connected to both my personal iPad and laptop”

      You should get separate work and personal IDs. If you have any access to work systems from a device, you should not access adult sites from that devices. This includes access through a couple of steps, as in, ‘my laptop can link to my phone for software A, and I can access work email from my phone’. Do not mess around with viruses and hackers, especially if you travel.

      I work for a tech company. I have a personal computer for accessing non-work sites like this, and my work computer. I have the option of using my personal phone to access work systems like email, and I just don’t. If my home / personal setup gets hacked, the path to work is limited. Not nil, since I do wfh regularly, but my work computer has its own physical firewall inside my home network. Mr. Jules is an IT security person and I asked him to make my wfh setup an extra layer of secure, just in case. I like my job and don’t want to risk it because I also happen to be an adult with a lot of interests.

  31. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    No.1 I’m left handed and sometimes it appears awkward to others when I perform certain tasks. I know what I’m doing, please don’t suggest a “better” way.

    1. Jenny*

      I have some slight nerve damage and tendinitis in my
      hand due to an injury and surgery when I was a teen. It isn’t enough to be worth mentioning and I usually don’t but people might see some of my habits as a little off. It’s because sometimes part of my hand is a little numb.

      1. Cassandra*

        Praise be to the deities of Physical Therapy (if this is you, you are amazing and I love you) that my hands now work, but…

        … for some years my left one didn’t, entirely. “Ulnar entrapment,” it’s called, and when it’s really bad it hurts like stink from wrist to elbow and significantly weakens ring and pinky fingers. I never tried the caps-lock dodge, but these days I have a Kinesis keyboard with remappable keys, and my left-hand shift is remapped to a thumb key.

        “Fix” the remapping at your peril!

    2. Jules the 3rd*


      If it’s not an actual problem, don’t try to fix it. There’s a gazillion legitimate reasons why people won’t do things the same way you do.

      People doing things different ways is a great learning opportunity, actually. I regularly work to educate new execs on the market segmentation that has driven decisions in my company’s semi-config to order manufacturing, which gives the execs a starting point for assessing the overall market and sales strategy.

  32. Jenny*

    For op2 I would feel out your boss a bit. Some people will react better to “I need to get my dog” than it others. Some people would be sympathetic, some think “just a dog”. I would also ask it generally. If the office has an unwritten expectation of staying late every day, job is.probably.not a good fit.

    1. Doggy Anxiety*

      Thanks Jenny! I’m definitely wondering if the grass isn’t always greener in this instance.

    2. teclatrans*

      Speaking of feeling out/starting with a more low-key approach, I wonder if you can say you board your dog during the day (and pickup time is nonnegotiable), as the term “doggy daycare,” while pretty common these days, holds some connotations of over-indulging pets, treating them like kids, etc.

  33. Myrin*

    #1, I’m not going to comment on the situation surrounding your firing in particular since, like Alison said, that’s already been pretty well covered. I do instead want to give advice that might help you in generally similar situations throughout your life.

    I am, on the one hand, someone who can hardly stand watching someone do something I perceive as “inefficient”. It makes me ragey to the point of fuming although I’m usually someone who doesn’t give a sh*t about stuff like this; it’s a strange and uncontrollable phenomenon I’ve been battling for basically all my life. My solution to that is to look away. Seriously. Leave the room, turn around, fix your eyes somewhere else, whatever you can do. I promise you it will decrease your level of annoyance to basically zero. It was a revelation when I read this – in hindsight, obvious – piece of advice not so many years ago. What matters is the end result and if that’s something I can be happy about, I really don’t need to care how it came to be.

    On the other hand (and ironically), I’m also someone who can bristle immensely at someone correcting me in anything. My first reaction to someone telling me (with regards to something I’ve done my way for a long time) is to tell them “NO!!1!”. However, it’s happened quite often that, once the discussion was over, I took some time to think about it and then ponder if maybe their way would be more practical after all and that maybe I should indeed look into it. I’ve observed this same phenomenon in others as well – they’ll react strongly at first but in the end do the thing differently if they decide it’s worth it.
    All that is to say: It sounds like you disabled your coworker’s capslock key quite shortly after your conversation about it. But since apparently she didn’t know about using shift at all (which I find fascinating because HOW but that’s beside the point), she might well have thought about it for a few days and come to the conclusion that yes, it would indeed be more efficient to do it this way. She might also not, which is fine as well, but in general, I think it’s good to remember that it’s worthy to bring stuff up once, sow the seed so to speak, and then let nature (or people) take its course. But you can’t do that if you forcibly take matters into your own hands.

    I’m sorry you were fired and wish you all the best!

    1. Emily*

      Seconding the “just look away” advice! For me, someone with annoying optimizer tendencies, learning to look away (or leave the room, or whatever is applicable) has been really helpful – I’m less likely to feel the desire to correct someone, which in turn means they’re less likely to feel upset or defensive because of something I’ve said.

    2. Mimmy*

      I’m a keyboarding instructor, and I too get annoyed when I see my students do something I think is inefficient, even after I’ve explained to them several times why it is inefficient. The only time I have the luxury to “look away” is when I can leave student A to work independently–even if inefficient–so I can work with student B.

      I know that ragey feeling, believe me!

      1. DavidG*

        What if they can’t do it the way you believe is efficient? What if that’s physically difficult, painful or just plain impossible for them? Efficiency is individual.

  34. Bagpuss*

    OP5, yes, people do go back, and it can work. But if you go back, you may find that the dynamics of your relationship with your boss and others do change a bit, as everyone now knows you are willing to go – you may find some people a cooler towards you, and (depending on the nature of your work) that some things have been reallocated to others and don’t automatically get returned to you.

    I notice that one of your reasons for taking the new job was salary, and another was that it had better prospects for career development, so one thing to think about is how you are going to deal with that. If you go back, is thee any scope for talking to your boss about whether there are ways your pay could increase in future, or that you could develop your skills. if not,do you see going back a short term thing until you can find a new job which gives you those advantages but s a better fit for you than the current move?

    I think it would be sensible to think carefully about those sorts of thing so that you have a clear idea of where you see things going.

    Also, think about why you don’t like the new job. How much of it is culture shock / being out of your comfort zone, and how much is a fundamental mis-match which isn’t likely to improve? Are you likely to have similar issues with other jobs which might, on the face of it, give you the better development prospects and higher salary, or is it specific to this company? Sometimes analysing why it isn’t right can help you avoid making the same mistakes again.

    1. OP 5*

      Thanks for this. If I were to go back I would need to commit time to the organization so I am definitely not looking at it as a short-term fix – that wouldn’t be fair to them. I think it’s 50/50 culture shock and fundamental “issues” that aren’t going to change. I say “issues” in quotation marks because they’re not really – they have many people on staff that are happy doing what I do – it’s the job itself that I’m having an issue with. As an example, my last job was the same job title, but there I was managing staff, working on projects, engaged with other staff and volunteers, whereas here I get coffee, arrange and rearrange calendars and am not even invited to team meetings. And that’s completely fine for many people, it’s just not what I want.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I think those are legitimate things you can raise with you old boss of you do ask about going back – you can be clear that you enjoy and feel you do well at the project wand team work etc – I think if they see that there are positive things in Old Job you want to return to,rather than negative things in new job that you are getting away from, it gives everything a more positive spin!

      2. MissGirl*

        How much of your responsibilities are because your new? Starting a new job at the same level might mean going backward a bit.

        1. OP 5*

          Yes for sure! My responsibilities seem to be consistent with others at my level at current company – which is why I don’t see them changing. It’s not at all what I was offered.

          1. Lora*

            Oh heck, bait and switch is an excellent reason to go back! and one your previous employer should understand.

            Why employers do this is beyond me. They will get a reputation and then struggle to recruit good people, they will have an extremely unhappy staff, they will end up with stupid high turnover. Either fix the reasons that the job sucks and nobody wants it when it’s realistically described, or say “look we know this sucks but we’re willing to pay for your boredom/stress”. Those are your options. Trashing the entire company’s reputation and limiting recruiting for the whole entire company because they become known as That Company is not a solution.

      3. LKW*

        It’s very common for people to leave and come back to my company. The unofficial policy is you get one return trip. If you leave a second time, it’s unlikely you’d return unless under very special circumstances (like you were acquired as part of company merger or you had very niche skills that were needed for a project.)

      4. Starwatcher*

        There’s at least one large state university system where, because of the laws regarding raises, it’s perfectly normal and accepted for people to reach a certain promotion ceiling in their department, take another job elsewhere for a couple of years, then come back as a “new” hire in a new position at a much higher salary.
        Administration knows this is stupid, wasteful, and punishes people for loyalty, but no one has been able to change it because making changes is like turning the Titanic.

  35. Rebecca*

    #5 – you can go back! I left my job, terrible manager, unrealistic workload for over 2 years, and I finally got an interview for a job that I thought I would love, and…I didn’t. It had better pay, like yours, but nothing else and I was just as miserable there. I reached out, gave my notice, and went back, to a new manager and realistic workload, better hours, and just a much better experience.

    Please reach out to your manager. Life is too short to be unhappy in one of the basic things most of us have to do: earn a living.

    1. OP 5*

      How did you find going back? Both the process and how it was when you got there? It’s a weird thing to worry about I suppose, but I worry about what I’d say to people. I would want to seem at once grateful for the chance to come back, but not wanting to bad-mouth my new/current employer.

      For what it’s worth, my last manager was awesome – there’s nothing I’d want to change which is so rare that I can’t believe I was dumb enough to give it up!

  36. OrangeYouGlad*

    #2 – Picking up your dog.

    The thing to be aware of are the optics here.

    Some people are dog people and would completely understand this! Some people are not and will not get it…and may possibly judge you for leaving your important work for your dog?

    Perhaps keep the reason you need to leave at 5:30 PM to an unspecified “after work commitment” that you need to take care of until you get to know your office better and how they will perceive this.

    Unless you are applying at jobs where there are dogs in the interview!

    1. Antilles*

      Agreed – keeping the description as a generic “have commitments so need to leave at 5:30 consistently, with only very rare exceptions” is the way to go. Your dog is essentially no different than if a parent had child care commitments, but there’s a sizable number of people who either (a) wouldn’t quite see it that way or (b) would question the whole idea of a dog needing specialized training for anxiety.

      1. a Gen X manager*

        I totally agree with Orange and Antilles comments here. I would add that I am a manager and a dog owner whose dog goes to daycare every day and I still agree that it is best to not share the reason for the need to leave by that time every day. Most people don’t get it. I love dogs and see them as part of the family, but I still don’t want be told / reminded that the reason you have to get out the door is for the dog. It is just a mismatch with our culture and implies that you’re not putting your work first (which isn’t logical if you’re actually performing, but it creates that impression). Vague (but unchangeable) family /personal obligations in the evenings is definitely the way to go here, no matter how understanding a particular employer or manager might be.

        1. a Gen X manager*

          I meant to also say that even if Manager A is super cool about it, it could adversely affect your reputation with your co-workers, other managers, etc. Managing the optics of this is a part of professionalism, I think. AND you definitely don’t want it to become “a thing” (“she has to get her dog” ).

          So, OP 2, I think you’re really smart for thinking about this in advance and setting yourself up for the best approach with a new employer! Good luck!

    2. Lora*

      +1. People have to leave on time ALL THE TIME. They have to catch a train, they have kids, they have elderly parents, they have a yoga class. But if you mention *why*, I guarantee that someone, somewhere, will think it’s not a good enough reason and will nitpick. If your manager is anything like me, she doesn’t want to deal with a bunch of whining from the person who thinks your dog is not as important as their guppy-breeding class or whatever. Just say you gotta leave on time but you’ll have your phone/email/VPN.

      Seriously, if you have to leave to pick up your kids, there’ll be someone without kids grousing that they can’t leave on time because they don’t have kids, even if they are 100% capable of leaving on time should they choose to fart around the coffeemaker for less than two hours every morning. If you have to leave to pick up your dog, someone will say “It’s just a dog, it’s not like it’s kids!” If you have to leave to pick up your elderly parent from adult day care, someone will say “can’t she wait an hour? she’s an ADULT!” If you have to leave to catch a train, someone will tell you to just Uber. If you have to leave for a class, someone will tell you to skip class and just get the notes and read the textbook. There’s seriously no end to the second-guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking, but if you just say “I have to leave on time” with no explanation whatsoever, it sort of bypasses all that nonsense.

      1. Another person*

        Agree completely. My colleagues and my boss don’t need to know I leave on time so I can run personal errands after work and still get home to feed my fussy dog who somehow can tell time! They just need to know I always leave by a certain time and my work is either complete or I have an appropriate plan for completing it.

        It is immensely helpful that I established at the offer stage my proposed work schedule was in line with the expectations for my role.

          1. sam*

            heh. I had to get a different alarm clock at one point because my cat, through trial and error, figured out that if she walked on the buttons on the top of my clock, she could get the music started and…if the radio started to play, that meant that it was time for me to get up! and feed her!

            at 3:00 in the morning.

            The first time it happened, I thought it was a kind-of-funny accident. After the 5th or 6th time, I caught her in the act and realized she was doing it on purpose.

            Mind you, she has an automatic feeder that has gone off at the exact same time every day for almost 8 years.

      2. k.k*

        Oh yes. There’s always someone with an opinion. Once you’re on the job for longer and really get a feel for the place you may be safe with the honest explanation, but until then no details are needed. Most people have lives outside of work, so you’ll hardly be the first person to mention having an obligation in the evening.

  37. Katie the Fed*

    God, do I love intern letters. God bless ’em. Hearts in the right places, minds somewhere else.

    1 – if you hate inefficiencies that much, don’t ever work for government! But seriously – people are going to have all kinds of REALLY annoying work habits. They’ll take notes on their hands or respond to every email with “thanks” or eat chips at their desk all day with their mouths open. You’re just going to have to deal.

    2 – Agreed with Alison’s advice. Don’t tell them it’s for doggie daycare. Just say you have a commitment and will need to leave most days at that time.

    1. Grits McGee*

      It is interesting that there’s a common thread in a lot of these intern/inexperienced workers making bad judgement calls and getting fired letters, namely that it’s not the decision itself that’s fireable, it’s the getting “getting a no/soft no and pushing anyway.”

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I imagine it’s the qualities that have helped them get this far – gumption and tenacity – just taken to an extreme.

        1. Violet Fox*

          Sometimes I think the first time many of our younger/first time in the work force folks where I work have never encountered a hard no until they encounter me.

      2. Stellaaaaa*

        A problem with internships is that companies don’t always honor their “obligations” in the way that interns are told (by their schools, by depictions in media) they will. Businesses aren’t always equipped or able to provide the sort of business-entry experience that the interns expect, and frankly, NEED. It’s reasonable for a business to decide that the arrangement isn’t working out because no one there is able to work with someone who has no workplace experience or baseline adult social skills. Schools are promising experiential workplace education and then outsourcing it to people who aren’t educators.

        However, in this case I would argue that the interns actions are fireable in themselves. You don’t alter office tech without permission.

      3. Jaydee*

        I’ve started specifically correcting this with my son (he’s almost 7). He will ask for a thing. His dad or I will give a fairly soft no. He will ask again. We will say a stronger no. By the third or fourth time we are snapping at him and he’s upset that we are yelling. I’ve started pointing out that the reason we got so upset isn’t that he asked for the thing but that he continued to ask even after we said no. I think it might be starting to sink in. I hope so anyway.

        1. DArcy*

          My roomie’s kids (6 and 8) are certainly prone to that bad habit, especially if they want to borrow things from me (being a geeky adult roomie, I have Cool Grown-Up Things).

          “I already said no. Asking me again will not make the answer change.”

        2. LizM*

          Are you familiar with Love and Logic? I use that with my son, and after I’ve said no twice, I’ll either say, “Asked and answered” or “I love you too much to argue.” I thought of several interns and coworkers in my life when I decided that I needed him to learn to understand that “no” wasn’t an invitation to argue or prove his case.

          Although it did take me aback when my 5 year old niece told my sister “I love you too much to argue” when told for a second time that it was bedtime…

  38. Lady Tech*

    #1 is such a weird thing to do I can see why they reacted the way they did. If someone (especially someone junior to me like an intern) messed with my little productivity habits in an attempt to trick me into being more efficient in their mind I would be PISSED. Every one has little idiosyncratic habits at work that may seem unusual to one person but may be sacred to the person using them. And as an intern this is way beyond the realm of the sort of thing you should even be commenting on let alone trying to “fix”.

  39. Liz*

    #2, doggy anxiety.
    I don’t know if you know why your dog has such separation anxiety but my dog was abused, according to the behaviorist vet we took him to (yes, we took the dog to the equivalent of a doggy psychiatrist).

    For whatever reasons, I find people bend over backwards to accommodate us when they hear the dog was abused.

    This comes up bc I cannot get people to stop trying to touch him and he will bite. Saying he will bite does not stop about half the touchers, saying he was abused and is terrified of hands gets them to back off.

    So giving a little more context as in, dog was abused (if you think that was true), we are working on it, and the trainer recommends he not be alone for now . . . Etc, etc. I find that helps people get it, you are not spoiling a dog, there is a medical reason.

    1. always in email jail*

      To be honest, I’m not a dog person, and I wouldn’t really care that you’re leaving because your dog has anxiety and that the dog has anxiety because they were abused. I’d view that as oversharing. Just tell me you need to leave at 5:30 on the average workday, and ask if that is usually the case in the office. It’s either something that will fit into the office culture or it’s not, regardless of the reason.

      1. always in email jail*

        ^Just realized I sound colder than intended. As a manager, I really try to avoid playing judge to whose story deserves an accommodation and whose doesn’t. I trust everyone to be an adult and to make their own priorities. It’s either a job that can accommodate leaving on time most days, or it’s not. As a manager, I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying “so and so leaves on time every day to pick up her aging mother from the adult day home, and so and so leaves on time because she’s a single mom with a kid in daycare, but you can’t for your dog”. Either yes, that’s a reasonable request for the job, or no, the job requires more flexible availability than that.

        1. BPT*

          Exactly. I’ve worked in places where people got raises because they got married or bought a house. Which really made me angry as a single person because I did more work than a lot of people and had to fight for minuscule raises. People’s personal lives should not dictate what benefits they get from work. So someone’s story about a dog they chose to get isn’t going to make me more ok with them leaving early.

          That said, I would view it the same as anything else. If everyone gets leeway to the amount possible for their hours and they make up any time they need to working from home or coming in early or whatever, then I’m perfectly happy. If Clark can leave at 5 two days a week to pick up his kids but work from home, and Mary has to take care of an aging parent so works from 7-4 every day and Sue likes a regular schedule so works 9-6 and then generally doesn’t check in in the evenings, all that is fine with me. If it gets to the point where the people who don’t have kids/dogs end up being the ones picking up the slack in the evenings because everyone else has to leave, then there’s a major problem.

          TL;DR: I’d suggest not bringing up the reasons you need to leave because generally they’re irrelevant. Either the schedule works for your employer or it doesn’t, and the reason shouldn’t really matter (barring emergencies, etc).

          1. Kate 2*

            This! When people say things like, well Bob has gotten married so he needs a raise, I plan on saying, well Susan works too, so they have double the income as I do, while we have the exact same expenses really.

        2. SignalLost*

          No, I think this is really reasonable. I think the time to indicate why something affects your schedule is if that thing is negotiable AND you have a very, very good relationship with your manager, which you don’t at the time of hiring. This isn’t negotiable (your dog must be in daycare and must be picked up) so leaving out the reason why you need to be off is probably best, because someone will do the “yes, but so-and-so needs to get home to their bedridden mother when the home help aide leaves, mothers > dogs, you suck it up and stay.”

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I agree with this. “I need to leave by 5:30 because of other commitments” sounds completely normal. “I need to leave by 5:30 because my dog has anxiety” sounds like “I want to talk about my dog.” Either it’s okay to leave or it isn’t. If your boss has to micromanage who has a “good enough” excuse to leave at a reasonable time, that’s something to take into consideration in and of itself.

        1. Doggy Anxiety*

          Thanks everyone. In this case, it’s simply a breed characteristic and some formative experiences as a puppy (too much love instead of not enough!) and luckily not a case of abuse. Thank you for all the helpful advice, and will leave any reference to the dog off the table going forward.

          1. Anja*

            I have a dog who luckily has no separation anxiety issues but we also live alone. I have fairly regularly left with a jaunty “all right, I’ve got to get going before the pup ruins my floors!” since it’s not fair to the dog or her bladder to leave her inside the house for too long.

            I would not have brought up the reason for my needing to leave on time at the offer stage, but felt comfortable with it once I was in the position and got to know my bosses and colleagues. I’ve had my boss touch base with me when scheduling late meetings to ask if it was okay and confirm that I’d be out by 5:30. And then she actively would nod me out of the meeting at 5:30 if it ran late. I also made very certain to let them know that I could do late meetings if I knew with enough time to come in late (as mine is less of a needing to leave a specific time and more needing to be gone from home only a maximum amount of time) and that I could come in again after or work from home if necessary.

  40. Kvothe*

    OP5: I have a happy story about going back to your old employer! Two years ago one of my coworkers left our company because she was approached and offered a job similar to you it sounds. So she went ahead and took it…and then very quickly regretted it, new workplace was a horror show apparently. There was a guy with severe anger management issues and basically made the workplace extremely toxic so she emailed our boss and asked to come back. Took about a month to get through all the logistics but she came back and we were all super excited that she came back and it’s been two years now and it never hurt her (other than resetting her years of service).

    Moral of the story: If you really did leave on good terms don’t be afraid to ask, we now collectively block out the time our coworker was gone (maybe 3-4 months total?) and basically pretend it didn’t happen lol

  41. Boomerang Employee*

    OP#5 – I just did a job boomerang this year, and it worked out for the better. I had been at my firm for about 9 years and was unhappy for the last 2, doing work I enjoyed and was good at but was not my passion. It had been a rough year with difficult projects, and I was denied a deserved raise and promotion for the second year in a row. A competitor that had contacted me before reached out with an offer again. It wasn’t a good offer financially, but the project I would be on was spectacular with a capital S – career making stuff. I excitedly made the jump and knew straight away it was a bad fit. The new company culture was rigid, I couldn’t get on the same frequency as my new boss, and I didn’t like my new coworkers. I toughed it out for almost year, thinking it was new job jitters. It wasn’t – it was just a bad fit. The best work in the world wasn’t enough to polish that over. I went back to the old firm before the year was up – with that raise and promotion I had wanted before I left, but that was just gravy. My old company was very gracious about it too (I would have made me eat some crow, haha). It was the right move to come back. Be sure that your old employer will reinstate all your benefits and seniority – ask for any left PTO balances to be restored.

    The hard stuff :

    #1 Massive hiring between my depaeture and return means that new people thought they should have seniority and there was some ruffled feathers at first. The shorter time away these easier this is to adjust with.

    #2 A ton of new tools and policies were implemented while I was away, meaning I am playing catchup on some things and just don’t know others exist until I have done something wrong or the hard way. It can be frustrating.

    #3 The old BS is all the same. Don’t expect magic changes unless those magic changes are in your attitude/patience. Having had a taste of an unpleasant work environment, I feel like I am handling old dramas with a bit more balance than I did previously.

    #4 People will have blamed mistakes and errors on you while you were gone, either to save face or to mollify clients. You’ll have to deal with problems that weren’t yours when you get back.

    All that being said, if you liked the company, have the support of your old manager to return, and most importantly liked the people you worked with, going back could be a good move.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      #4 People will have blamed mistakes and errors on you while you were gone, either to save face or to mollify clients. You’ll have to deal with problems that weren’t yours when you get back.

      This is such an important point. It’s always easier to blame the guy who isn’t there anymore.

      Conversely, they may have uncovered legitimate mistakes that you made.

      1. OP 5*

        Ha yes – a good point. I think (hope?) that any errors made at my old job were minor ones. However I have since admitted to my old colleagues my love of turning my phone way down when I’m on a deadline – I guess I wouldn’t be able to get away with that anymore!

        1. Mananana*

          OP5, it doesn’t matter if the errors were yours or not….. the person who just left will get blamed regardless of who was at fault. Boomerang’s comment was chock-full of good advice, but #4 was particularly insightful.

      2. Chalupa Batman*

        This one stuck out as important to me, too. I give my predecessor the benefit of the doubt much more now than I did when I first started my job. There are things I just genuinely prefer to be different, which is fine for my role, but a lot of things that various people implied Old Coworker didn’t do well didn’t have nearly as much to do with Old Coworker as they would like for me to think.

    2. straws*

      My husband did this successfully. He left for 1 year and was let go from the job he left for. His old job accepted him back (at slightly higher pay even). He was highly valued and respected, so he didn’t have much of a problem with #4 on this list, but #1-3 were absolutely true. He had a few initial conflicts with new hires that didn’t realize how much industry/company knowledge & experience he had, he had learn all new job processing & scheduling apps, and the jerks that didn’t leave were still jerks. That said, he originally left for higher pay and new experience, and he now has an appreciation for being valued and is much more of an advocate for what he needs. It worked out really well, and a lot of it came down to Boomerang’s last statement. He had all of that.

      1. OP 5*

        I’m glad he got to go back. I’d go back for the same pay (though I wouldn’t turn down a raise if offered, I wouldn’t ask for or expect one). I know my responsibilities would be slightly different – my reports are all now managed by other people in a way that makes sense so it might to make sense to change it again, etc.

  42. Nox*

    #1. Ironically, at my job we probably would of put capslocker on a PIP. Why do I say this? Because they write people up for being inefficient all the time, even for small stuff like this because we KPI everything to death. We have one manager in particular that will document if you are not using keyboard shortcuts and use it against you in perfomance reviews.

    Saving 5 seconds on using ctrl and god knows what isn’t gonna make you anymore profitable.

    1. AJHall*

      That’s the best argument for sacking OP#1 I’ve heard. Unchecked, they might grow up into being that sort of manager.

    2. Jenny*

      I would quit a place like that in a heartbeat. I am one of those millennials that has been using a computer as long as I can remember and someone micromanaging my ingrained typing would drive me nuts. Plus I mentioned I have wrist problems and I would play that up as much as possible.

      1. Nox*

        I’ve been trying to plot ny escape for a while. Just have had to settle in my new house and all that jazz.

        The sad part is management loves this girl despite the high attrition rate for her projects because she chases people out and claims it’s her just getting all the betas out…. like they are some sort of animal…ugh

        1. AW*

          OMG, that’s so gross. Is she related to that boss that sat with the LW while they worked so they could force them to use the keyboard instead of the mouse (or vice versa, I forget which one they hated)?

          Fingers and toes crossed your escape is sooner than later.

    3. Bea*


      So they think it’s efficient to police this kind of stuff? Catching someone not using the shortcut is a waste of time they could have been doing something profitable. I’d fire anyone who even mentioned it in passing that Johnny didn’t use a shortcut and dared to go the “long way”, why are you paying that close of attention, that’s not helping the company at all. Gross, I hope you are free from that hell soon : (

    4. DavidG*

      Wow. My last employer was CMM Level 5 (it’s been a while, so pre-CMMI), so our procedures were demonstrably market leading for the software industry, but work optimisation comes from looking for where you need to make changes for big gains (which is why my defect tracking project showing where rework was being created was part of our CMM evidence pack), not that kind of anal my-way-or-no-way change. Anyone who tried to do that to me would find me registering a disability discrimination complaint with HR, and I’m not exactly the only person with disability-compromised keyboarding skills out there, so your manager’s fractional ‘efficiency’ gains may actually be opening up business risks.

  43. Coming Up Milhouse*

    Happened to me. I got an email with the incorrect name. I wrote back asking to verify the name and email address and advised I was available. Turns out it was a case of right email, wrong name and I got the second interview and eventually the job. It doesnt hurt to ask and be polite while doing so! Good luck!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      When mass emailing the same information, I would deliberately leave off the salutation from my copied text to avoid exactly this problem. Which is why I assure OP it’s almost certainly a case of whipping up the same “we’d like to set up a second interview” text for more than one person and sending it to the right emails.

  44. #WearAllTheHats*

    #5 – We just had this happen and it was almost the exact scenario. We took the person back. We loved the person when they left and they were very transparent: the money was nearly double for the same work. The new company sought the person out on LinkedIn. Turns out the double salary came with a price tag — doing some very shady things and being asked to be “friendly” with potential clients of the opposite sex. It lasted a couple of months and they person wanted back in with a renewed vigor and has been amazing. Will they stay forever? Don’t really know and we can’t control it anyway. I surely won’t stay “forever” so no harm, no foul. It all depends on your reasons, your growth from the “issue,” and the type of culture you’re trying to go back to.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      “being asked to be ‘friendly’ with clients of the opposite sex”

      Ew ew ew ew ewwww. Thank you to you and your company for helping this person get out of THAT situation, without judgment.

  45. Nervous Accountant*

    Re #5, I’m interested to know more about how people feel about this. I used to think it was OK to come back, and to an extent I still do, but we’ve had a few people come back recently. They had left during tax season which I thought was a huge bridge burner. but apparently it’s not a big deal here anymore so….. *shrugs* I liken it to someone going back to an ex as a fallback, not bc they genuinely like that person but I accept that may be a bit flawed logic.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I’m not an accountant, but I wouldn’t say leaving during tax season is a bridge burner. It’s hard to time the job hunt and the results that come from that. They may have started the job hunt at some point the previous year and it just happened to bear fruit during tax season. And as for people coming back, I’m sure for some people it might be a fallback; it all depends on why they left in the first place. If they left a crappy workplace, workload, or manager and then decide to come back to it, to me that’s different than leaving for much more money for the same job you’re happy at. The latter may have realized that the grass was not greener on the other side, just like OP5, and the company they were otherwise happy at is thrilled to have them back. So why not go back?

        1. Callalily*

          Accountant here!

          It certainly isn’t a bridge burner during tax season unless you leave with insufficient notice… anything less than 2 weeks would burn that bridge and if you can give more than 2 weeks during this time it is a huge benefit to your reputation. It can be very hard to hire new staff during tax season and get them up to speed in time to be useful, especially if you’re already understaffed. We know that life happens and that you can’t not accept a job just because it is tax season… I mean is there ever a perfect time to be quitting?

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            I guess. I don’t disagree with the idea of coming back but I was always taught that bailing during tax season (even with two weeks) was a huge deal. I mean ultimately we all look out for ourselves.

            Actually I DID come back, but only because I was seasonal the first time around and since the company was laying off a lot of people at the time, I wasn’t made FT. And when I came back, I came back wiht the intention to stay as long as I could, not to bail as soon as I found something else.

            I get that every company and set up is different. Maybe I’m thinking of a few too specific situations and taking the dating analogy too seriously here lol

    2. OP 5*

      So … this is my fear. I’m concerned that this is how it will look. If it had been not a great place to work to begin with, I still wouldn’t consider going back. But it was great and I regretted resigning the instant that I did it. But like I said, I didn’t know how to in-resign. I would be genuinely happy to go back there and not happy because it’s less bad than here, but happy because I love the people and love the work and generally because I made a huge mistake in leaving in the first place.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        I don’t think that asking to come back will hurt you – they encouraged you to do so, after all, and if that has changed, they can simply say no. Once you come back, things very well may be awkward for a while, but I think if you demonstrate that you really are happy to be back and are not planning on going anywhere for the foreseeable future, you’ll get back into the swing of things sooner rather than later. Good luck!

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I say go for it. It sounds like there’s really no reason not to. You left on good terms and you didn’t leave because of a bad work environment, crappy boss, etc. You left for what you thought was a better opportunity. Sure, you might still be limited as far as growth, but that’s probably not set in stone. Most work environments change. They add new positions, or positions change or evolve.

      3. Boomerang Employee*

        I worried about perception too, especially from coworkers who I shared reasons for the departure. It took a bit of sucking up my pride, but once I overcame that initial fear, I found that management and fellow staff were very happy to welcome me back. Don’t let that fear be what holds you back.

      4. tigerStripes*

        I know several people who left and then eventually came back to the company I work at. I don’t know them well enough to know about minor issues, but in general, it didn’t seem to be a problem, as long as the people were good workers who get along well with others. It should be OK for you too.

    3. Bea*

      Here you can come back as long as you’re not a toxic energy or just bad at your job OR if you leave when you know damn well we’re in a crunch. I just heard a story about a person who quit right before the peak of season, then called in a few months later asking if there was any work they could get. There was work but they weren’t welcome back given their decision to leave when they did.

    4. BritCred*

      Some are fine, others aren’t.

      One colleague I had who’d been with the company since very young left for about 1.5 years for a “better” job and then came back and management made it exceptionally difficult as they treated her like an angelic hero who couldn’t do any wrong. In fact in the meantime she’d fallen behind and was causing friction in the running of the department because “It was ok to do it this way when I was here before!” when it wasn’t now. Blind management caused her to be promoted over the rest of us who were older and generally more experienced because she was their angel and that made more friction (the being young thing is itself a side issue: she didn’t have the maturity in attitude to run a department and manage staff). Last I knew she left again within a year or so…

      However from the comments OP5 is making I’m pretty sure that won’t be the situation for them!

  46. HisGirlFriday*

    Through very poor management at my office, I am currently the ONLY person who knows how to update our website. When I went on mat leave last year, I created a plethora of how-to guides (complete with literal screen-shots and step-by-step instructions for everything), but mine all include keyboard short-cuts (i.e., Cntrl+K to insert a hyperlink), because that’s how I do it.

    I cannot tell you the amount of grief I got when I got back from people who ‘couldn’t figure that out’ and ‘isn’t there a menu option to do this?’

    Well, yes, there is, but you can either learn my way or learn on your own, but I’m not re-writing the how-to guides and making them LESS efficient because you can’t be bothered to learn keyboard shortcuts.

    1. Nicole*

      But if there were screenshots and text literally explaining the keyboard shortcuts, what exactly couldn’t they figure out – how to read? ;)

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        For whatever reason, I’ve noticed that some people have a really hard time with the concept of keyboard shortcuts. I don’t know why, but I’ve definitely seen it. At this point I don’t even try with some people – if I’m walking them through something I just tell them to “copy the text” or whatever and let them do it however they want to do it.

    2. Michael Carmichael*

      You’d think people would be thrilled to learn the keyboard shortcuts since many programs move the menu items all around over time.

      My best example: I started using Photoshop in 1995 and used it for years in my work. I have a different kind of job now so haven’t followed the changes since 2008ish, and when I can’t remember the keyboard shortcut for a tool, it takes forever to find it in the million menus. But I have definitely seen people who really, really don’t want to use keyboard shortcuts. I don’t understand it either.

      I think if you are the one creating the manual, with screenshots, you get to do it however you want. Adding menu items would make it twice as long also.

      1. SignalLost*

        But the other view, that “the way I don’t do it is wrong” isn’t really helpful, to me. I teach in computer sciences, and I always, always encourage my students to learn keyboard shortcuts, particularly very common ones. I don’t think people who are more comfortable with menu trees are wrong, and some of that shows up in needing to document processes both ways. A reasonable compromise for me is “this is the keyboard shortcut I’m using in the video, but the menu item is Edit > Paste” in the text as well. (I actually simplify even more than that, past the first mention.)

        1. DArcy*

          It’s a *lot* more trouble to document multiple ways to do *everything* on the computer, though, especially since most modern software has three or four ways to do anything, and if you’re going to insist that *everyone’s* preferences be accommodated . . .

          1. SignalLost*

            Of course it is. It’s also a huge pain to have to schedule one-on-one time to explain something to someone in the way they understand (which can also be an issue of learning style). I don’t think there’s a real “win” possible in this kind of situation, because it will turn out, when you’ve accommodated shortcuts, menuists, two-fingered typing, alternate operating systems, and that one person who has an injury, you’re writing documentation for someone who types with their nose and can neither use shortcuts nor menus. In my case, it works best for me to document my materials for both shortcuts and menus.

  47. Lynne879*

    #5 – I think you should go back to your old job, but only if you left on good terms and plan on sticking around there for at least a year. I wouldn’t go back to your old job only to job search immediately afterward, because it might affect your relationship with that employer.

      1. Clewgarnet*

        It’s very common for people to leave my employer and come back, sometimes just a month or so later. Expect a little bit of teasing from your coworkers, but it was generally a welcome relief to get somebody who could hit the ground running rather than having to train someone up from scratch.

  48. Suze*

    #2 – I would honestly have to recommend against calling it “doggie daycare” when it does come up. I’m sorry to have to say that, because on one level “who cares,” but if you’re already concerned someone isn’t going to think your dog’s care/training isn’t serious enough, don’t give them something else that’s going to make them grind their teeth.

      1. Callalily*

        I would say leave it at a hard “I NEED to leave at 5:30 everyday.” Don’t try to soften it with ‘some days’ or ‘I’d like to’ because you are giving them an option to say it isn’t possible when truly it is.

        Most won’t push past that explanation for more details because then they could be into the grey territory. You could be leaving to pick up your kids from daycare or heading off to a medical appointment every evening – it frankly isn’t any of their business about WHY you need to leave.

        1. Eric*

          Definitely. I’ve done it this way in the past. “I have a personal commitment that requires me to leave at this time.”

          Personally I’m an only child (and grandchild) so I have commitments to my family that no one else can handle. Never come to it, but I’ve always been fully ready to walk out on a job if they said no. There’s an art to it that it took me a few years to learn. At my first job, my boss reacted … strangely to me telling him I needed to leave because of a family emergency. Turns out his adult son was estranged. So I leave the details to the absolute minimum.

    1. fposte*

      Agreed. I’m a dog person myself, but it’s just too cutesy a term for when you’re wanting to state a serious need.

      1. Allison*

        Yeah, I wish someone would come up for a better name. Just the word “doggy” makes me cringe a little. I say it in personal settings (“hi, doggy”) but I wouldn’t want to say it at work, especially at my age where being taken seriously as an adult by older colleagues is enough of a challenge.

        1. Trig*

          I wonder what OP could use instead (if they eventually choose to bring it up). The dog sitter? The dog boarding facility? The kennel?

          The first might sound too much like an informal arrangement and not a serious deadline. The middle is.. wordy and weirdly formal. The last might evoke doggie prison and be seen poorly by people who think crates are bad. I dunno if there’s a perfect solution, though “I have to pick up my dog” as suggested below might work!

    2. Delta Delta*

      I was thinking exactly this. Even though “doggy daycare” is what people call it, it sounds diminutive with that phrasing. I think you could very fairly and honestly say “I need to leave at 5:15 because have to pick up my dog by 5:30.”

      1. Doggy Anxiety*

        Ha, I called it doggy daycare because that’s what it’s called, but definitely would be careful using it in a business circumstance as it does obviously sound cutesy. Thanks everyone!

        1. teclatrans*

          It wasn’t always called doggie daycare. It’s a cutesy, tongue-in-cheek, embrace-the-indulgence sort of term that popped up sometime in the past…decade, maybe? I think it used to just be day boarding?

          1. fposte*

            I was trying to think of a good alternative term and that one’s excellent. I’d forgotten about it–“doggie daycare” seems to have eclipsed it.

          2. Doggy Anxiety*

            I meant this specific boarding service calls themselves doggy daycare – not the industry in general! Sorry, I wasn’t very clear and didn’t mean to come across flippant in any way!

  49. Eric*


    So I’m a software engineer, and I have Very Strong Opinions on how to configure my computer so I can work as efficiently as possible. I have a ton of weird Linux configuration tweaks set up so I can do things with minimal keystrokes. My dad was also a programmer and I’m very cautious about avoiding RSI or other injury because I’ve seen what happens when you’re typing at a desk for 20-30 years.

    But when I’m trying to help someone else out, all those opinions become take-it-or-leave-it, this is what works for me and if something else works better for you, that’s awesome.

    Right or wrong, it is very easy to annoy other people when you’re trying to correct stuff like that. Especially when you’re less experienced than them. Maybe firing was over the top, but this is a 3 month internship and people will forget about you after a couple weeks. Take the lesson and use it going forward.

  50. Elizabeth West*

    #4, it wouldn’t hurt to ask. You won’t know unless you do. OldExjob had several people who left and came back, some of them more than once. I was thinking about it myself, though I doubt there’s any role for me there now (they got rid of the position I was in).

    #3 you’ve been told this a zillion times already probably, but NO NO NO NO NO. Watching porn is fine but do it on your own device. If you don’t have a personal phone or tablet, get one. You shouldn’t do anything on a company device you wouldn’t want the whole company to know about — because people do talk.

    #1 — Oof. I had a coworker who used to suggest I do stuff in Excel or Word the way she did. Some of her suggestions did help me improve efficiency a little bit and I didn’t mind trying them, but others were just annoying to me.

    I think it’s okay to suggest something if you feel it could help the person, but you can’t get mad when they prefers to do it their way. And you can’t take that into your own hands, sorry.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      Ugh, the Excel stuff. Constantly dealing with my manager’s “I’ve found a new program/shortcut to make all of our work easier” is one of the reasons I’ve started the process of moving on. I’m no dummy but after a while all of these dopey tricks and shortcuts aren’t actually helpful, and I know I’m not the only person who pushes back against the sort of tech-y people who talk about efficiency but are a bit out of touch with how normal people work. I’m a few operating system upgrades behind because I just don’t feel like learning something new when it’s not a huge deal.

  51. ThatGirl*

    So, a variation on #4 happened to my husband recently. He had a first-round phone interview, then got an email about coming in … that was addressed to someone else (his email address, obviously, but the name was completely different). When he replied with some confusion, the only reply he got was basically “sorry.”

    It was frustrating on a few levels – they never officially said he wasn’t moving forward, and that’s a crappy way to hear it, getting his hopes up briefly.

  52. Xarcady*

    #2. This is usually my advice for people with babies, but I think it applies here as well.

    You are never going to know ahead of time when there will be an emergency at work that will keep you later than 5:30. The time to plan for emergency contingencies is when there isn’t an emergency.

    So, a little creative problem-solving.

    You say “we,” so I’m assuming there’s another adult in the household. Could that person pick the dog up sometimes? Either on-call or a few set days every week?

    Is there another doggie daycare that is closer or has more flexible hours? (Finding one that is both closer and good for your dog is a challenge, I know.) But a closer daycare might give you the option of picking the dog up and then returning to work.

    Is there a neighbor who wouldn’t mind picking the dog up and taking it to their house until someone is home at your house, either on a regular schedule or on an as-needed basis? A retiree, a teen with a car and driving license? Or is there someone else who brings their dog to doggie daycare who might be able to take your dog home once in a while?

    If you do find a reliable person, could you set up a regular schedule with them? That way, you could tell your co-workers that you are free to work late Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, but absolutely have to leave by 5:30 on Wednesday and Friday. Being willing to stay late, even if just on specific days, could go a long way to smoothing things over with co-workers who aren’t dog people and don’t understand why you just can’t leave the dog at home.

    Would the office be open to your leaving to get the dog and then working from home? Or let you bring the dog to the office with you after normal working hours?

    I realize some or all of these suggestions might not work for you. But there’s probably some sort of solution out there. And some day you may need a dog sitter for a non-work emergency. It’s hard to find someone last second. If you have a plan in place already, things will go more smoothly.

  53. Nan*

    CAPSLOCK – I have coworkers that do that, too, and it drives me nuts. I didn’t know the capslock could be disabled. Honestly, I’d be tempted to do it as well. But I don’t like it when people touch my stuff, so I wouldn’t touch theirs. However, when people leave their computers unlocked when they step away (a huge compliance no-no) I will turn their screen sideways before locking it. It usually only takes once for my team not to do that anymore. I can inconvenience you or I can write you up, your choice. And that’s your one pass.

    Dog lady – I would just tell them your schedule is firm and you need to leave at 5:30 due to a conflict. Maybe tell them that you can sometimes stay late, but need to know well in advance to make those arrangements. I’d be ok if my employees did that.

    1. Courtney W*

      Wow. I can’t imagine that passive aggressively changing your employee’s settings is more productive than having an actual conversation with them about why leaving their screen unlocked is such a problem that must not be repeated. It seems like a pretty inefficient way of communicating with them, which is kind of ironic since the caps lock thing drives you crazy like OP #1.

      1. Hedgehog*

        Actually it sounds more efficient to me than seeking them out for a conversation. Can’t take more than a few seconds on either end. Presumably they’ve already been told why they shouldn’t leave their computer unlocked, and even if they haven’t it seems pretty straightforward to figure out.

      2. JustaTech*

        I knew a startup office that was trying to enforce “lock your computer when you walk away”. There was one guy who just wouldn’t, no matter how often he was reminded by his manager, or the security officer. So the office-approved way to remind him was that whenever he left his computer unlocked anyone was allowed to change the background to Justin Bieber.
        They were trying to make the point that if someone can change your background they could also have stolen confidential information, and if that happened the company could lose major clients.
        But it was only done *after* many serious conversations from management.

        1. Brogrammer*

          I think it’s also an important difference that having your background changed is annoying but 1. it’s easy to fix even for someone who isn’t super tech-savvy and 2. it doesn’t actually impact your ability to work normally.

      3. LQ*

        I get it. I really do. You see all these things and you want to help people and you know that sometimes it takes a little to get over the hump. Like maybe you’ve been pushing yourself to get fully behind the DVORAK because you know it is more efficient and causes less strain, but it’s hard to do it so you’ve disabled switching back to the ease of the old way for QWERTY for yourself, you get that it is hard to make those leaps. So you’ve been doing this and you know it is improving your skills, and you can’t imagine a world in which other people aren’t trying to do things like this all the time. You want to know every single short cut and way to make work more efficient, you have hundreds of quick steps in outlook and keybinds for all of them, you barely have to type anything to send an email. You set up hundreds of macros.

        But here’s the thing, after you do all of those things for yourself (and if you haven’t? get to it) you have to demonstrate, consistently, how those things make you so much more efficient, and that you know what to spend that extra time on, that people come to you. And you can, you really can get to the point where people are coming to you asking how to do things better. You will, with time and patience (which believe it or not, is the most efficient tool in your tool kit, because a 50% success rate is much better than a 0% success rate even over a decade) find ways to demonstrate your skills and share them with people who are receptive.

        From a sheer efficiency standpoint your tactic failed. So don’t do it again. Learn, and become better. Which means learning when to offer (hey, did you know), when to push (you’re really going to find it is easier if you let me install this tool, I saved hours a week), when to demonstrate (just simply get more done), and when to turn your damn head away and not watch because it’s not the thing that will make the most difference.

        Do the math on this in your head. What can you do with people being people (not robots!) that will be the most effective thing in this situation? You have to tie things back to humans. If you don’t come back to the fact that your coworkers are humans all of the time you will have this happen again.

  54. MD*

    To be fair to #1 – when I training in a marketing assistant one I had to constantly remind her to use both hands when using a computer. Watching her literally sit on her left hand while her right hand moved the mouse slowly from folder to folder, shakily right clicking files to move or copy. It was awful.

    Sounds like he wasn’t in a training capacity though, so agreed it was overstepping.

    It’s amazing how some people refuse to learn to use the tools that they use every day. It’s a real thing!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, but the person receiving LW#1’s “correction” wasn’t slow and shaky. The LW reports she typed quickly and efficiently. So even a trainer would have been out of line to “correct” her method.

      1. MD*

        I mean we are all people here. It’s not rude to suggest that In the History of People Using Keyboards to Type, that this is how it was designed to be used.

        Personally, I would see someone doing that and judge their keyboard skills. I’m sure people will have a problem with that because no else on here passes judgment. Ever.

        1. SignalLost*

          Passing judgement is one thing. Pronouncing a punitive sentence based on your judgement is another.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          You’re allowed to silently judge all you want. You’re not allowed to alter someone else’s equipment behind their back in an attempt to force them to work “the right way” when what they’re doing is more than adequate and you’re not their boss. There’s really no excuse for what the LW did.

    2. DavidG*

      What if they have poor coordination and find it easier to take one limb out of the equation? There’s a reason my driving license specifies automatic controls only.

  55. CJ Record*

    #1 I know there’s been a lot of feedback on your actions towards your coworker, which is important, but my first thought when reading this was “Why are you tampering and potentially breaking company equipment?”

    #3 Noooo. Many company computers have a policy allowing fairly open IT access. Picture, if you will, having a casual hallway convo with your IT department: “So, I see you like watching X.” There are a whole bunch of cheap tablets out there.

  56. LizM*

    Re: #1, don’t you have to be logged onto a computer to change keyboard settings? The way our computers are set up, you’d either have to be logged in as that person, or logged in as an administrator. Someone without admin privileges can only change the setting for their own profile. If that’s how OP went about disabling the caps lock, I can see how this rose to a fireable offense, because it’s a major violation of our security protocols, and she violated those protocols to do something she had no business doing in the first place. You don’t mess with other people’s computers, especially if your office deals with any kind of sensative information.

    OP, I’m sorry this resulted in a firing, but please take this as a learning experience. Boundaries are important.

    1. SignalLost*

      Depends on how good the IT department is. I’ve seen both in my professional life. Another possibility is that user didn’t log out/lock the screen, and OP leaped on the acct before it auto-slept.

      1. LizM*

        Yeah, I meant to acknowledge this as a possibility too. Swooping in while co-worker is in the bathroom or a meeting to do anything on a computer under someone else’s protocol would also be a serious violation of our security protocols. Coworker would likely also get a talking to, but at least in my office, it would be viewed as carelessness, where what OP did required intention.

        My point is that in many offices, information security is a very.big.deal, and, short of physically destroying the caps lock key (which is a problem in and of itself) it’s hard to imagine how OP could have done what she did without violating these policies.

        1. SignalLost*

          Oh, no, totally agreed; I’m just still mad at my employer who didn’t think we needed any kind of antivirus … on a college campus … with thousands of computers … most of which saw all kinds of user behavior every day … because the rampant virus infections there was not compelling evidence we needed a sane IT policy. (Also, somehow viruses could go through the system but you could only change your profile on the local machine, not your whole profile. Also, at least one person was still using IE6 circa 2015 and refused.to.change. Also, I may have been scarred by the experience.)

  57. Lauren*

    OP #1: I’m not sure why you think using the caps lock instead of the shift key is slowing anyone down. I type 120-130 words per minute and use the caps lock because it’s what works for me. Having someone disable the caps lock on my keyboard would SIGNIFICANTLY slow me down. It’s not how I learned to type, and I’m not going to change my process now. Holding the shift key takes me a lot longer (and produces a lot more errors) than just tapping the caps lock quickly.

  58. Paige Turner*

    #5- I went back to an old job/employer two different times (both retail) and my SO is currently strongly considering going back to a different role at his previous employer after a year away. Would your previous employer consider having you come back to work in a different position, or only in your previous job? It sounds like low pay would still be an issue if you went back, but I understand from personal experience than low pay is better than no pay.

  59. minisnowder*

    I have a very intelligent friend who is brilliant at her job and types like a total dweeb. I poke fun at her for it, but can only imagine the wrath if an intern messed with her keyboard because he deemed her typing inefficient. She knows she types funny, she knows the “proper” way to type, but she just likes what she likes. What a strange overstep.

  60. Undine*

    OP#1 You may be thinking — “But how was I supposed to know she would be this upset” — but actually you did know. Why didn’t you make the suggestion to her up front — “Let me disable your Caps Lock key, and see how it goes?” You didn’t do that because you knew she would say no. And you didn’t go to your/her boss and ask, either. In general it’s a good rule, (at least in a functional workplace) if you want to do something that could have a significant effect, and you can’t tell someone about it, then it’s a bad idea — whether it’s disabling someone else’s caps lock key, “borrowing” a few bucks from petty cash, throwing out files, or covering up a mistake you made. Any time you find yourself thinking, “I just won’t tell them, and they’ll come to see it my way later,” JUST DON’T DO IT!

    (You’d like me, I don’t use the caps lock key even when I type all caps! I just hold the shift key down! That’s better, right?)

    1. SignalLost*

      Yes, but I don’t. :) The caps-lock key was invented for a long string of capital letters!

      (I am teasing; I hope that’s clear.)

    2. teclatrans*

      Lol. Also, it me. (Sometimes. I am a very inconsistent typer. Sometimes I even use the shift key of the same hand as the letter I am capping. But, 100wpm is fast enough for me.)

    3. Paige Turner*

      Your example just made me realize what this reminds me of! It’s a deep cut reference, but in the movie I Heart Huckabees, Jude Law’s smarmy corporate suit character Brad tells this story about when he met Shania Twain, and gave her chicken salad after she said she didn’t like it, and then she did like it- but later, she finds out and gets mad at him because she’s vegetarian and only eats tofu tuna. The point of the scene is that he is a jerk for tricking her in order to show off that he was “right.” Don’t be like Brad.

  61. Susan*

    #2. Maybe I’m alone here, but I don’t think it’s wrong to ask about what the typical day/hours would be for this job while in the interview. I wouldn’t say you have commitments until after an offer, but it would give you a heads up before they even give one. Whether your picking up a child, a dog, or just getting home in time to catch up on today’s Judge Judy…it really doesn’t matter if it’s outside of your regular work hours.

  62. val*

    I remember being completely clueless in my first-ever job — which I got fired from — at age 14. I have to admit being kind of bemused at the level of cluelessness I’m reading about over and over here from people who must be age 20 – 25. By the time I was 18, I totally understood what working meant. I still made errors that were youth-related, I nearly always realized immediately (from reading the faces of people around me) or almost immediately (from asking someone else about it later) that what I’d done or said wasn’t appropriate. But what really stuns me is that to decide to write to AAM, you’d almost have to have ZERO idea that what you’d done was questionable. You’re writing because you want someone to say, “No, dude, that other person was bang out of order. You did nothing wrong.”

    1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      A lot of teens work jobs like food service or retail, where you may learn many workplace norms and good habits, but can also pick up bad habits and have gaps in your knowledge when it comes to navigating office jobs. Not to mention that, in the US at least, it’s become much harder to find entry-level work as a teen than it was just a decade or so ago. As for the last part, it may be true that the OP didn’t really understand that what they did was wrong (or why they were fired, which I think the comments agree might be harsh without some other justification), but at least they had enough self-awareness to ask for an outside opinion.

    2. Samata*

      I think people write into AAM to figure out if they were right or wrong, not to get vindication for deviant behavior. I am assuming as an intern he is college-aged (19-23). At that age I wasn’t asking anyone for input.

      By writing in the OP is essentially doing what you did at 14: I still made errors that were youth-related, I nearly always realized immediately (from reading the faces of people around me) or almost immediately (from asking someone else about it later) that what I’d done or said wasn’t appropriate. As an intern his “some one else” is Alison & the commentariat of AAM.

      I strong agree with MegaMoose that it shows a lot of thought to write into an advice column and ask for advice. I have written in before when I thought I was doing the right thing but wasn’t sure, and that is what the OP seems to be doing to me.

    3. Mephyle*

      Sometimes it goes the other way, too. Someone writes in about being fired or reprimanded or badly treated and it turns out they were all right and their boss or workplace was toxic and dysfunctional. Then commenters here tell them, “No, you did nothing wrong, the other person was out of order,” and maybe they didn’t know this until they wrote in because having their letter on AAM is the first time they’ve had the chance to get feedback about what a normal workplace and boss should be like.
      You were fortunate that by the age of 18 you had enough experience to know what was appropriate but you also learned what were the appropriate ways for your bosses to treat you and what behaviour should be expected of you – not everyone who writes in has been so lucky.

  63. marymoocow*

    Just a small comment for #1 – I have small hands and I learned to type when I was very young (before starting school – I would play on my dad’s computer as a toddler and type out the lyrics to Disney songs, or make up stories). I have used caps lock instead of shift my whole life. It’s really hard to relearn something that you’ve been doing for 25 years, and it wouldn’t be worth the effort anyway. My way isn’t the most efficient, but it’s the most efficient way for me.

    #2 – 5:30pm sounds completely reasonable, for lots of jobs. I would expect most employers wouldn’t bat an eye at that time. They are probably used to parents who need to pick up kids, people taking night classes, people who need to get home so somebody else can use the car, etc. I think your needing to leave work by that time will probably not be a big deal.

  64. Amber Rose*

    #2: I had a dog that had separation anxiety. She used to tear the wallpaper off the walls when we were late coming home. Poor thing. Got better when we got a second dog.

    Not that I’m advising you to get another dog. I honestly don’t have any additional advice than what’s been given, just commiseration that sometimes it’s hard to do what’s best for the fuzzies and still get necessary human things done.

  65. Brogrammer*

    OP3 – In addition to what the other commenters have said, if there’s a reason why you can’t bring your own personal device, you might just have to fall back on magazines when traveling. They’re harder to find than they used to be, but they still exist.

    OP5 – You can totally go back, but you’ll want to plan on staying at least a year to avoid burning bridges when the time comes to move on.

  66. Atomic Orange*

    Question for y’all… I get that porn is a big no on work devices. But what about erotic fiction? My company cell phone is typically the only mobile device I carry around with me. And sometimes I use it to read novels if I’m waiting around or am too lazy to get another device at home. My reading material is eclectic and yes some times it includes erotic fiction.
    Should I not be doing that either? I’ve just never considered it in the same categoey as good old fashioned porn. But now I’m wondering if it’s something I should be doing…

    1. fposte*

      It’s not likely to tip the same alarms because it doesn’t involve streaming or massive files, but I really wouldn’t anyway unless there’s a very permissive use policy.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      My biggest concern would be where the fiction is coming from. If you’re talking about buying something from the kindle or itunes store and reading it through their apps, or transferring an epub or pdf from your computer, I think the fact that you’re reading something risque is of much lower concern than if you’re using a browser to go to specialized websites and reading the same thing.

    3. Jenny*

      I wouldn’t read anything on your phone that you would be uncomfortable having your boss know about. If it is their device, they can access the data on it, usually by your usage agreement. I would also check your device usage policy before downloading anything on it.

    4. kitryan*

      If I’m going to read a library book online while at work (on break or something) I do try to make it a book that’s PG 13 or under instead of opening up anything I know to contain more explicit material, however incidentally. It doesn’t inconvenience me much and I feel better about it.

  67. System Specialist/Software Tester*

    #5 – I did this early in my career. I had a job that I loved and was really good at, but it was a dead end. I accepted a promotion in the same company into a very different job and hated it and was awful; then I left for a position that I thought would lead to a career, at a 2nd company. It was awful, but luckily I’d stayed on very good terms with my previous manager, and my replacement for the job I’d loved was NOT working out and gave notice, so I called my former manager and offered her a deal – I’d go back, whip the office back into shape, help her hire a person for that role and train that new person, buying her a few months so she didn’t have a key position open, and I’d keep job hunting with her knowledge and support in the meantime. I didn’t even lose my seniority since I was gone for less than 3 months, and I ended up working for company #1 for 8 more years.

  68. Ashley*

    I learned to type in middle school. Somewhere along the way, I learned to type the same way the the writer describes. I had to pass a typing test to have a certain job, and I did fine. I’m 34 years old and have been typing this way for over 20 years. If someone tried to teach me another way (which a few people have noticed), it wouldn’t be worth the time or effort to try to relearn something that is, by now, second-nature. I would be beyond pissed if someone tried to manipulate my work environment to “teach me something”.

  69. AW*

    LW #2 – I’m just going to agree with Susan that asking the general question about typical hours during the interview makes sense. I asked whether being on call was required last time I was looking and no one seemed to find it odd. I think finding out what the general requirements are up front makes sense. I do agree with Alison that you don’t bring up your need to leave at a specific time until there’s an offer though. Making requests that particular beforehand could come across as presumptuous.

    LW #4 – Definitely find out! It doesn’t hurt to ask but you don’t want the other person to not realize the name mistake, if there isn’t one, and then have to tell you in person that they didn’t want to interview you. (I’m sure some will say that seems unlikely that a mistake can go that far but it happens. If they think they’re talking to the right person they probably aren’t checking the signature on the email.)

    LW #5 – Going back to a previous job is definitely a thing! In addition to what Alison said: people come out of retirement, a solo venture doesn’t work out or take up as much time as expected, people move away and later move back, people get laid off for re-organization reasons and get hired back into new roles, etc.

    Several employees did this while I was at my first paying job out of college. I haven’t seen so much of it in recent jobs because the places I’ve worked at people tend to stay put more for various reasons (age, industry, etc.) but it’s not unheard of.

    If you didn’t leave on bad terms it absolutely doesn’t hurt to ask. And given how hard you worked during your last two weeks they’d be glad to have you back if the position is still open.

  70. Observer*

    #1, I did read almost all the comments, so I hope I’m not repeating something that was already said. Because I do agree with most of the commenters and all of the reasons they mentioned why what you did was a real over-step.

    One thing that I didn’t see addressed and which I don’t really understand in your thinking. What made you think that if you disable her caps lock key she would just do it your way and see how efficient it is? Did you really think that when she found that her Caps lock is not working, she’d just start using the shift key? Or did you figure that once you’ve wasted her time by making her try to figure out what’s wrong, and you then stepped in to “save the day” with your explanation, she’s just do as you told her?

    Which leads to another comment. Did you spend a minute or two actually thinking how this was likely to play out? Did you think about the frustration she was likely to feel when her computer, as she sees it, stopped working properly? Or does that not matter to you? Did you think about the inevitable waste of time that would be caused by this trick? Did you think about the possibility that she would be so annoyed by your interference and the waste of her time that she’d be even LESS likely to try it your way, and instead go right to someone who could help her reverse what you did?

    Here is a REALLY important set of skills that you need to learn (besides learning how far is acceptable to push). Thinking through the likely consequences and effects of your actions is absolutely key. You’ll never get very far if you can’t do that. Relatedly, it’s really important to be able to think through how others are likely to be affected by and perceive your actions. It’s important for it’s own sake – empathy is just an important human trait – but also because it enables you to better understand the likely effects of your behavior.

    1. Turtle Candle*

      I admit I had a similar question. At one point a coworker who was frustrated by my using the mouse rather than keyboard shortcuts hid my mouse. I… just went to IT for a new mouse. (Admittedly, I assumed it had been mistakenly moved by the cleaning crew or something, but still.) It’s odd to me to assume that someone would change their workflow rather than just get a fix.

      1. Talia*

        Even in a keyboard-shortcut heavy environment, you can’t use them to totally replace a mouse!\

  71. InterviewAnxiety*


    I would not ask about the name discrepancy, and go to the interview assuming it was for you.

    If it wasn’t for you, you’ve gained the following:

    – backdoor 2nd chance to interview
    – an additional interview ‘experience’ to polish your interviewing skills

    and all you invested was a little time. Make sure to bring extra copies of your resume with you.

    If it was for you, calling out the name issue could embarrass the person who sent it. It wouldn’t be reasonable, but why start the interview off on that tone if you don’t need to? You are going to know within second of the interview whether it was for you or not, just by the questions they ask.

    1. Julianne*

      I don’t think this is a good idea at all. I think it’s highly unlikely that emailing back to clarify, as Alison suggested, is going to deeply embarrass the interviewer or lead to any negative outcome for the letter writer, whereas just showing up to the interview, if it was indeed an error and the letter writer was not meant to be interviewed, is going to waste the letter writer’s time and the interviewer’s time and seems much more likely to reflect negatively on the letter writer. It is likely to be seen as deceptive, I think.

    2. Creag an Tuire Is Not A Hiring Manager*

      When I conduct my second round of interviews, I address them all to “Todd” and set them for the same timeslot, to find out who has the gumption to say nothing and show up anyway.

      If more than one candidate does, I tell them they must fight each other to discover who is The One True Todd.

  72. DataQueen*

    #4 – Alison’s language is spot on. But don’t go beyond that and keep mentioning it – it could be misinterpreted…

    I will always remember this one example: I was at a conference and met a nice woman who asked for my help connecting her to an organization I am on the board of. Happy to do so, I wrote an email to her with some information. Her name was Jane and the company she worked for was called Jean’s Teapots – very similar. I addressed the email “Dear Jean,” by mistake. Instead of brushing it off or correcting me, she KEPT bringing it up. In every email. “Hey DataQueen, it’s JEAN again, haha” “Sincerely, “Jean”” “Hey DataQueen, let me introduce you to my coworker Wakeen – Wakeen, make sure you call me Jean, or else DataQueen won’t know who you’re talking about!!” I don’t know if she was trying to be funny or force some sort of inside joke between us, but I was so put off. It came off as weirdly passive aggressive about a simple mistake, and I was super annoyed. And when you’re annoyed with someone that you’re voluntarily helping (which is the case in an interview too – they don’t have to follow up with you), then you’re way less likely to keep emailing them.

    I’m not saying you’re going to do anything like that – just use Alison’s language and all will be great!

  73. Brett*

    This happens all the time. With current workplace, I have seen this several times. Our people are in demand in other workplaces from working here, so sometimes they get some very large offers to leave.
    They leave, and find out that the career advancement, skill development, and general work environment is just so inferior that the extra pay is not worth it. Less than 2 months later, they are back.

  74. Anonymous Startup Guy*

    I’m considering doing #5.

    Problem is that my old boss is on maternity leave. I’m assuming that in this case, my best bet would be to call his boss or a senior co-worker. I’m on great terms with them, I just got lunch with a couple of people who I used to work with last week, and the company is always hiring.

    But what do I say about why I want to come back? It’s only been 5 weeks, but I’m sure I’m not staying at this job. They have financial issues they didn’t tell me about before I started, and payroll and HR are impossible to pin down.

    My plan is to quit on Friday if they don’t have my paycheck for the proper amount on our payday Wednesday. Since they’re literally not paying me what they agreed to, the unemployment case should be easy. I have plenty of savings too. I’d like take a month or two to job search, and then contact my old job. Good idea?

    1. Samata*

      I would focus on the new job search if you have the means to. Your old job might take you back now, but it sounds like your situation is a little different from OPs. If you are on good terms and think you would likely leave at the next opportunity to do so I wouldn’t return.

      1. Anonymous Startup Guy*

        Well, I’m not in danger of losing this job yet. The problem is that I’m not getting paid.

        After I started they told me they’re having financial difficulties. Right now I’ve been here for a month and I’ve been paid $0. My boss says “look, I really can’t do anything. Talk to HR, I’m sure they’ll settle it.” And HR ignores me.

        Maybe Rose colored glasses, but seeing how everything here sucks has made me wonder if I lost something good in quitting my last job.

        1. Creag an Tuire Is Not A Hiring Manager*

          Um. That’s not rose-colored glasses. You need to leave, and you need to call your state’s Department of Labor.

        2. Kyrielle*

          Yeah, I would absolutely ask if there’s an opening to go back, _if_ you think you would stay long-term. They’re probably going to want a commitment to that effect – if they don’t ask for it explicitly, they may be assuming it exists without being spoken.

        3. Kyrielle*

          On the plus side, if you job hunt for a new position, you have a GREAT explanation about why you’re leaving. :P

  75. Xarcady*

    #1. There’s an important, broader lesson to be learned here, as well.

    Your first few weeks at any workplace, you will see and be taught things that don’t seem to make sense; things that clearly could be done a much easier, simpler way.

    It is a wise move to refrain from voicing your thoughts on the matter.

    Because there is usually a good reason for the apparent inefficiency. It could be that files have to work with a client’s system, and the client has really old software. It could be that newer, better methods were tried, but created more errors, so the old way was brought back for quality’s sake. It could be that the system was simplified, but that caused problems for other departments, and things had to be returned to the more complicated way that they used to be.

    And sometimes, things really do need to be updated, but there’s a stubborn employee who won’t budge, and someone up the line has decided to not push the issue. And it’s possible that the stubborn employee is the owner or the boss, and then there’s little hope of changing anything.

    Experience has taught me to keep all negative comments to myself when starting a new job. No one wants the newbie to bounce around telling everyone how wrong they are and how easily the newbie can fix things. This does not endear you to people. Even if you were brought in to change things, it’s better to point out what’s working first, before tearing down stuff that people have been happy with for a long time.

    Even positive change causes stress. If you really want to change things, you will need to bide your time, win the trust of those you work with, and be prepared for massive pushback from at least some of your co-workers.

    1. Brogrammer*

      Yes to all of this. My department recently had to let someone go because he kept getting stuck on “But WHY do we do it this way? It doesn’t make sense!” and assumed that we were all idiots instead of considering that there were other factors contributing to why we did things the way we did them.

      And sometimes the answer is, “We’d love to make those changes, but we just don’t have the resources to execute them the way we’d like.”

      1. fposte*

        Yup. I’ve had to dampen somebody’s “But best practices!” protest a time or two.

      2. Another person*

        I bit my tongue until it was sore and waited over a month, and my very first small step toward a suggestion for process improvement was quickly shot down with (heavily paraphrasing) “but we’re bad with technology here and we don’t want to learn” from a senior team member.

        Maybe I should have felt good that I had built up enough trust for them to admit it?

        At any rate, I was not an intern or even an entry level employee at that job. I think people in a more junior position should wait a lot longer, and display a lot more sensitivity than letter writer 1 did!

      3. kitryan*

        Oh yes. We had a newbie who liked to ask why we did everything we did. Every time the answer was either ‘because of long involved thing that comes later in the process that you would learn if you were quiet and just absorbed procedures at this stage’ OR ‘yes, that would be better but the higher ups don’t want us to do that’. Luckily he was a quick study and once he was through the bulk of training he got the idea that things weren’t going to change just because he thought they should.

  76. HR Bee*

    #4 – I am often responsible for communicating with candidates, and often I will be copy/pasting an email between three to five candidates, and just changing the relevant information (name, date, time, etc.) I am ALWAYS afraid that I will forget to change the name and embarrass myself, so I double/triple check it before I hit send, but it’s very possible that I could copy the email from another candidate, change the outgoing address, the date, and the time, and forget to change the name.

    My guess is that the email was meant for you, but the person sending it made a similar mistake. Good luck!

    1. Toph*

      For me, it’s more often a wrong name happening due to just-talking-to-someone-else than copy paste issue, although I live in fear of that too. I’m always super embarrassed when it happens (and usually notice before someone tells me and follow it up right away with sorry, realname). It happens.

  77. Librarian from Space*

    #5 – From the management perspective, I was always thrilled when a high-performer wanted to return after leaving. I’m sure if your boss said you could come back, he/she meant it. I doubt they would say it if they didn’t mean it! Good luck!

  78. Labgirl*

    #1 – This was me although I’d been at the workplace several years. I am very efficient and constantly trying to make my work habits more efficient and eliminate systemic errors in my processes.
    I got a serious smackdown from a coworker who is a close friend, a really good employee, and had been there longer than I had. I hope I’ve learned my lesson, but I still have to bite my tongue daily.
    One really important thing that I realized from this is that you can make a workplace miserable with these kinds of micro-controlling behaviors. Nobody wants to work in that kind of environment. Nitpicking turns into resentment and hostility, especially in a job that has low turnover where people are working together for years, and even decades.

  79. Wendy*

    #3 – No. It’s never OK. Beyond all other reasons everyone has mentioned, your company is probably paying to back up your PCs data and you don’t know what they’re looking at. Every month I am required to remotely rifle through the hard drives of our top 10 data users. This is done without the user’s knowledge. Our goal is to find ways to reduce their data usage, not to check for inappropriate content, but those two things are often linked. Just don’t take the risk – you never really know who is looking at your work PC. Buy and travel with a personal device.

    #4 – It’s probably a copy paste error because I make those kinds of errors all the time, though thankfully not around something as sensitive as hiring. Good luck!

    #5 – Yes. Definitely reach out and see if you can get your old job back! Even if it doesn’t work out, maybe your old workplace can help you network for a new position now that you know your present job isn’t a good fit.

  80. Nana*

    Doggy day care: I once worked for an attorney…and mentioned that I HAD to leave on time on Tuesday [picking up my young child]. Sure enough, on my very first Tuesday, he couldn’t find a file (on his desk) and I HAD to stay and find it. [Took five minutes.] When he did the same thing the next Tuesday, I wished him luck and walked out. When I called HR to confirm that I’d quit, she just sighed…this wasn’t the first such power play on his part.

  81. OP 5*

    Just wanted to jump in at the end of the day to say THANK YOU to Alison for running my letter (so quickly!) and for the advice, and thanks to all of the folks who took the time to leave a comment. I’ve never had the experience of a colleague leaving and coming back so I didn’t realize that it was as common as it is. I’ll let you know what happens!

  82. Nieve*

    “I felt I was making a mistake the instant I resigned — but how do you go back on that? ”

    I dont understand what this person means. What do you mean ‘how do you go back on that’? if they were telling you that they’d take you back if you changed your mind, all you had to do to ‘go back’ was to tell them that you’ve changed your mind and that you would actually like to stay. Im very confused. Literally one single sentence to them would’ve sufficed haha

    1. SignalLost*

      Not really. It depends on the workplace. My senior colleague resigned, I was offered his role on an interim basis, with the knowledge I would basically have to shoot someone at the interview to not get the job permanently, and I leaped at it. And then he un-resigned, and not only did I lose the job I’d been promised, no one really said anything about it. Meanwhile, a relative got promoted under the same circumstances and then the coworker who left wanted to un-resign; the company said “nope, we’ve already promoted your replacement, sorry.” They did ask my relative if she wanted to step back to her previous position, but they respected her wishes. There are other companies where resigning is final. So depending on company and context, it really isn’t that simple. (This does not sound like 5’s situation at all, but un-resigning isn’t easy or possible, and you may damage relationships by doing it.)

  83. TrainerGirl*

    When I saw the headline for #1, I really thought that the OP disabled the Caps Lock because the person was typing in all caps, which….still not appropriate, but I’d understand. If that method worked for the employee, why care so much?

    OP#5, I did go back to an old job. I’d been laid off, and when someone quit, my boss called me and asked if I would come back. I was working on a contract and didn’t mind because I liked the job and wouldn’t have left if I hadn’t been laid off. If you left the job because you needed more money, unless you’re going to get a raise to go back, you’ll be in the same position, especially now that you’ve gotten a job with a higher salary. That’s definitely something you should discuss with your old boss so this doesn’t turn out to be another short-term position.

  84. DavidG*

    #1 My keyboard technique is all over the place. I randomly vary the number of fingers I use, I hit caps lock as often as shift. You name it, I’m probably doing it. There’s also a reason for that, I’m dyspraxic and can’t guarantee to hit the right key, particularly for keys hidden by my hands, plus hypermobile, so I frequently need to brace fingers with other fingers, even on relatively low-impact computer keyboards. I’m also a software engineer with a degree in computer science and a couple of decades of experience, know exactly what I’m doing and why, and I actually have a fairly decent typing speed.

    Our efficiency-motivated intern made multiple mistakes. They prioritised their opinion over a more experienced colleague’s (arrogance), they refused to listen to that colleague (arrogance again), they interfered with their colleague’s workstation even after being told the colleague had no desire to change (extreme arrogance, plus disrespect), they showed a profound misunderstanding of what is actually important in an efficient office (respecting others and adjusting to how they work), and the one absolutely unforgiveable, clear-your-desk-and-go, action in the view of many companies, they messed with the core configuration of a computer. (Amongst other things it demonstrates a lack of judgement towards appropriate behaviour on a computer which may make you either a direct or indirect threat to the entire corporate IT system).

  85. Kats*

    Letter #1 – I also thought it was going to be a letter about a coworker sending all caps emails. If someone did this to me and I had the power to fire them, I would because it’s incredibly sanctimonious about something that doesn’t even matter.
    I crochet as a hobby and my form is horrible. It’s not at all how you’re supposed to hold the crochet hook but I was self taught. I can crochet some pretty awesome blankets and I’m really fast using my method. I know my form is wrong but can’t be bothered to learn how to hold the hook properly because it will take 2-3x longer to make a blanket. If someone was paying me to make a blanket then all they should care about is the end product – does it confirm and is it high quality? If so then what do you care whether I hold the hook with my teeth or my feet? The typing thing is the same. She gets her work done and isn’t bothering anyone.

  86. OP 3*

    Thank you Alison for answering my question. I have been too swamped with the work-travel to read or comment before now. What I found the most helpful apart from your response was the different commentors who came in and mentioned that their TS policies have a zero tolerance or specifically mention porn in their policies.

    Unfortunately our policy is not that clear at all. Our laptops are given to us and we are told, “mainly use this for work”, but we are allowed to do online shopping, stream videos and music, both on and off the company network as long as it is “within reason”.

    When I was given my work smartphone I was told “Use this as much as you want for personal use – just don’t go over your data plan.” So I did not have a lot of guidance to know where off hours use of a work device could be an issue. I’ve been playing tons of video games on my smart phone for example – and never thought twice about it.

    I will say that several of the comments were just extremely off base. Especially the comments suggesting I’m addicted to porn? Wow! Not sure how you felt that was helpful at all? As work is brought home, or across the country and workplaces offer devices for personal use as a perk – I feel that this sort of question is helpful to understand boundaries and how different industries may mean by “use it freely”.

    I also found all the comments thinking that I was asking if it was ok to download porn onto the device funny. I really had no idea anyone even downloaded that!

    Thanks again!

  87. Miles*

    #5 – be careful. Some companies have been known to keep people in your position on just long enough to replace them, after bringing them back. Yeah it’s a legal grey area or ought right illegal depending on the details but that doesn’t help much when you are being screwed over and have a million other things to keep on top of. Is your old company trustworthy in this regard? Especially in terms of HR and any managers who may influence their decisions.

  88. Miles*

    #1 I wouldn’t have necessarily fired you over the caps lock if it were a prank or mistake, assuming the company culture was relaxed enough for that and they weren’t a frequent issue. That said I definitely would still fire you over this situation because you disrupted someone’s ability to work over a personal preference or a misguided moral quandary that a reasonable person would never consider going to such lengths over. Especially if I don’t know you, I don’t know if this is a sign of immaturity or controlling behavior, or just a quirk with this one particular type of case.

    Finally, cutting all of that out, to most managers (face it boss, knowing a few excel tricks and ctrl+c means you barely understand these things at an operator level, yet most of your peers think yer a wizard) disabling a key on the keyboard is akin to hacking the computer – which would be a fully justified automatic firing in most cases, even in places that don’t have “at-will” employment, if that were what this was.

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